Which tools do I need to convert a van?
Updated: Nov 23, 2020
Choosing which tools you need for a van build can be overwhelming. With so many different options available - and so many methods of constructing your van, it can be hard to know exactly what you'll need until you begin. When we started our van conversion we owned a few basic tools, but found that we needed to invest in some others to do the job properly. We mostly picked things up along the way, as we needed them. Now that our van conversion is complete, we've compiled a list of the tools that we found most useful and that we would recommend investing in for any van build.
Possibly the most important tool for a van conversion is a good electric drill. We used ours for every single part of the build - from laying the floor, to constructing the kitchen units. It's definitely worth investing in a large set of drill bits - for both metal and wood too. We also found it incredibly useful to have a spare battery pack for our drill, meaning that we didn't have to wait for it to recharge each time it ran out.
You can find the drill we used on Amazon here
While our electric drill also doubled up as a screwdriver, it saved a lot of time having a separate tool to use alongside it. Instead of changing the drill bit to a screwdriver attachment every time, we used a simple electric screwdriver to construct the floor, walls and internal furniture.
You can find the electric screwdriver we used on Amazon here
Our jigsaw came in handy for so many jobs during the build. We used it with a metal blade to cut holes in the side of our van for our windows and in the roof of the van for our vents. It was also handy when we needed to cut a curved shape in the floor boards, ceiling cladding or ply lined walls. We even used the jigsaw with a special tile cutting blade to cut the tiles for our kitchen backsplash.
You can find the jigsaw we used on Amazon here
When we could, we used services in B&Q to get our sheet material cut to size. However it seemed that the cutting service in our local store was out of order most weekends, so we often resorted to measuring up and making the cuts ourselves. We used a circular saw for cutting most of our sheet material to size as we found it gave the cleanest cut.
You can find the circular saw we used on Amazon here
We also invested in a table saw when we were about half way through our build - it's one of the things we wish we had bought at the start! Although we still found that the circular saw gave the most accurate cut for our worktop and cupboard doors, the table saw was very useful for making quick cuts in sheets of ply or MDF. We could easily cut a large sheet in half, making it easier to manoeuvre - and then use the jigsaw or circular saw to cut it to the final size. We went for a low cost table saw as we didn't plan or using it long term, but a better model would probably produce more accurate and clean cuts.
You can find the table saw we used on Amazon here
Given the amount of wood in our van, the sander was one of our most used tools. We used it to sand the surface of all our our birch ply and cladding as well as the edges of the other timber we cut. We didn't want any visible screws in our van, so we filled all of the holes with a wood filler and used the sander to smooth it down. We got through a lot of sander paper during the build process, so would definitely recommend buying a big pack with a variety of grains.
You can find the sander we used on Amazon here
We bought a heat gun to complete our van electrical set up. We used it to shrink wrap our cables and hide any exposed wire - this kept our electrics as neat as possible. It also came in handy for stripping the varnish on a piece of plywood that we had stained the wrong colour!
You can find the heat gun we used on Amazon here
There were also lots of smaller tools we used during our conversion, which are worth having to hand. We couldn't have been without our hammer, screwdrivers, wrenches and cartridge gun.
We've put together a more detailed list of all the tools we purchased in our Amazon shop. If you are just setting out with your van conversion, hopefully it will give you an idea of the tools you'll need to get started.