How to strip out a van ready for conversion
Updated: Aug 17
So you've taken the plunge and bought a van! Before you can get to work on the conversion there are a few steps you'll need to take to turn an old work van into a blank canvas for your new camper van.
Remove any existing cladding or interior
Our van started life as a hire van and then belonged to some marine biologists who used it for transporting equipment. When we bought it there were was a large wooden shelving unit inside as well as some old plywood lining the walls. The first job was to remove all of this and strip everything back to the bare metal. The make, model, age and former use of your van will probably determine how difficult this step is for you.
Most vans we have seen have plywood lining on the walls and floor that is screwed into the metal ribs of the van. The plywood on the walls can be removed using an electric screwdriver and once the screws are removed the wood should come loose easily. Removing the screws from the floor is usually a bit trickier as the plywood may have seen more wear and tear. We used a crowbar in some places as we couldn’t see where the screw heads were!
Top tip – Remember to keep hold of the plywood you remove, especially the floor. These can be used as templates when cutting insulation and new flooring boards later on.
2. Remove the bulkhead
Most work vans come with a large piece of metal dividing the cab from the van. We wanted to be able to access the back of the van from the driver's seat without leaving the vehicle so we took it out. Even if you plan to close off the cab area in your van design, we recommend removing the bulkhead at this stage so that you can insulate behind it.
Most of the screws for the bulkhead on our Ducato could be removed with an allen key. There were three bolts at the bottom of the bulkhead which we removed with a spanner and two trickier rivet nuts that were removed by drilling them out. Once unscrewed/bolted the bulkhead can be lifted out of the van by two people.
3. Clean the van
Underneath the plywood our van was filthy! We also found a toy car, several coins and a pencil among the grime. The dirt was difficult to remove in places, we actually used a spoon to get rid of some of it! After loosening most of the dirt we swept the entire van as much as possible and eventually went over the everything with damp cloths and sponges.
With a clean and clear van stripped back to the painted metal the build can start!
With the strip out of the van complete, the next step is to rust proof the van, sound deaden the walls and re-attach any loose panels.
All materials used and/or mentioned within this post can be found within our Van Conversion Cost Breakdown. All of the tools used can be found in our Tools Used in our Van Conversion post. If you can't find something let us know, we are happy to help!