How to build an RV from a van?

In this blog post, we will answer the question: “How to build an RV from a van?” We will discuss the required steps to successfully convert a van into an RV from scratch. We will describe the essentials, and materials, and talk about the entire conversion process. At the end of this post, you will get to know how to build an RV from a van on your own.

How to build an RV from a van?

To build an RV from a van, you need to follow the steps described below.

  • Choose the van
  • Remove the interiors
  • Clean the van
  • Design the layout
  • Carve the windows
  • Build a subfloor
  • Install solar panels
  • Build a pullout bed
  • Build the kitchen cabinets and a tabletop
  • Insulate the van
  • Build a dinette
  • Fix the plumbing
  • Install a portable toilet 
  • Install the carpet and curtains 
  • Paint the RV

Choose the van

  • Building an RV from a van is an interesting project. To get started with this process, you will need to choose a van based on your preference. There are different types of vans that can be easily converted into an RV.
  • Choose a van that is big enough to have all the basic requirements of an RV. You can opt for cargo vans, campervans, or even old-school vans. At the end of the day, you must have enough space for all the appliances and furniture that are essential.

Remove the interiors

  • The next step is to remove all the interiors in the van. This means you will need to remove all the seats, boards, floor carpets, and all the extra objects that consume space. Only the floor, walls, and roof of the van must be available at the rear.
  • Do not remove the driver’s seat and the accompanying seat in front. Ensure that the rest is removed and work cautiously while removing these objects. Avoid causing any damage to the body of the van.

Clean the van

  • Clean the van thoroughly and make sure that there are no dust, dirt, debris, and other components. Get rid of any damage if there is any. Be sure to remove all dents and get rid of rust if there is any. The van should be thoroughly clean without any damage.

Design the layout

  • Before designing the layout, it is wise to quickly get the measurements of the van. Measure the length, width, and height to get an understanding of how much space you have.
  • The most important part is to design the layout of the van. Make a list of what you need to build an RV from a van. You will need to consider the space and create a layout based on the space.
  • Split the layout into parts, the bathroom area, kitchen area, living area, and sleeping space. Design a layout based on these areas and make sure to have all the essentials in place. Don’t forget to consider the windows and doors. 
  • You should be able to determine the required space for each area based on the measurements of the van.

Carve the windows

  • The next step is to carve out the windows and doors if you plan on having any. Windows are essential since some vans might not have windows. However, you can still use the present doors of the van.
  • Make sure you carve out the windows and fix a frame with glass on the outside. Mark the window size on the van before you carve them out and make a frame that will sit exactly on the window.

Build a subfloor

  • You will need proper flooring for the RV and the best way to go about this is by using wooden beams and plywood for the subfloor. Add strips of wooden beams vertically and horizontally. Fix the square in between the wooden beams with sheep’s wool. This will act as insulation.
  • Next, you will need to cut plywood based on the floor measurements of the van. Make sure to use plywood that is two or four inches thick. This plywood will act as the floor. 
  • Fix the plywood by driving screws into the wooden beams. Be sure to cut them to the right measurements and make sure you consider the wheelbase that is inside the van.

Install solar panels

  • It’s time to power up the RV and it is important to fix solar panels on top of the roof. There are plenty of solar panels that can be installed with ease. These panels are sure to keep you up and running even without shore power.
  • Follow the instructions in the manual to install the solar panels. You will need to connect the panels to an inverter and run them through the battery.
  • You will need to get the lights and power up all the appliances that you plan on using in the RV. Make sure to get the wiring done while installing the solar panels.

Build a pullout bed

  • Since a van is limited in space, it is always good to opt for a pullout bed. You can easily build a pullout bed with use it as a seating area during the day. There are plenty of options to build a pull out bed. You can also consider installing a prebuilt foldable sofa bed if required.
  • Install a mattress on the bed and use several cushions and pillows. Using foam is one of the best options since it is easily customizable.

Build the kitchen cabinets and a tabletop

  • The next step is to build kitchen cabinets since you need enough space to store all your utensils and cooking items. With the help of plywood, you can build multiple kitchen cabinets. Draw a small layout and take into consideration the number of panels you want to build.
  • Attach cabinet doors with the help of hinges and cabinet door magnets. These are easy to install and they are also affordable. You can add a wooden tabletop and a sink above the kitchen cabinets. This tabletop can be used for preparing your meals and cutting vegetables.
  • Feel free to install overhead cabinets and make use of the extra space.

Insulate the van

  • Insulation is important in an RV and it is important to get the insulation complete before moving to the next step. Once you are done with the cabinets and the tabletop, you can go ahead with the insulation process. 
  • Follow the same insulation method as per the subfloor. Use sheep’s wool and add plywood to the walls and roof. Note, the same can be done for the doors of the van.

Build a dinette

  • A dinette is essential to sit down and have your meals in peace. You can also use this table as a workspace if necessary. Use a portable table floor base mount to install the table. 
  • Cut plywood for the table and make sure that you have enough space for two people to sit comfortably. You can build a bench on either side of the dinette with the same plywood and wooden beams.

Fix the plumbing

  • You will need to fix the plumbing and connect the sink to the grey water tank. Install a small grey water tank in the kitchen area and make sure that the sink is connected to the tank. Be sure to have a white water tank for drinking water. You can purchase a 25-liter tank and store it in one of the cabinets below the tabletop.

Install a portable toilet

  • Considering the limited space in the van, it is always good to opt for a portable toilet. There are plenty of portable toilets that are easy to carry around. These portable toilets are not too expensive. Make sure to build a box for the portable toilet and cover it when not in use.

Install the carpet and curtains

  • Now that most of the drilling, plumbing, and wiring is complete, you can go ahead and install the carpet on the floor. You can add vinyl if necessary. Make sure to cut the vinyl only in the required areas. For the curtains, you can go ahead and install magnetic curtains on the windows and doors.

Paint the RV

  • The final step is to go ahead and paint the RV. You can choose to stain all the cabinets and wood to give your RV a beautiful appearance. You can also opt to paint the walls on the inside and the outside based on the color of your preference.


In this blog post, we have answered the question: “How to build an RV from a van?” We have discussed the required steps to successfully convert a van into an RV from scratch. We have described the essentials, and materials, and talked about the entire conversion process.


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