How To:

Planning Camper Conversions


Find lots more details in the NEW Self Build Campervan Conversions book

Van what..?

1. Planning a Conversion

So you have bought a vehicle, hopefully you have already thought about what you are going to use it for, and now you want to convert it into a campervan. Where do you start?

Most DIY projects are 10% inspiration, 80% preparation and only 10% perspiration.  A campervan conversion project is no different.

Think about what you want to do, sketch it out, think about and think about it some more!  Also measure, measure and measure again. Planning is basically putting down on paper everything you thought about when deciding to go ahead and buy that specific van for your conversion. Everything such as what you want it for, what you are going to put it in, how and where you are going to drive it, and who you are going to take with you?

A good place to dry out socks!

2. Campervan Planning Considerations

A short list of sub-headings for starting your plan:

  • Usability - how easy is it to get at what you need?  Food, clothes, the kettle!  How high do surfaces need to be for comfortable use? Seating needs to be the right height too both in terms of leg and head space.  Do you have enough room for all the people who will be traveling?
  • Appliances - what appliances will your campervan have? How basic do you want your campervan experience to be? Fridge, stove, sink, toilet etc.  What size will these be and where will they be located?  Do they need to be near something else? e.g. a gas supply for the stove, the water tank for the sink.
  • Units and Storage - you need enough space to store all you will be carrying but you want this to be accessible in accordance with use i.e. everyday items need to be easy to get at whilst less frequently used things can be tucked away.  Remember you will want things to be secure and not rattling about when you drive - otherwise, believe us, it will drive you nuts!
  • Order - this is about which tasks you need to do before others.  Things like fitting the windows or a heater which is messy are best done first.  They also dictate the position and height of things like the stove and units. Soft furnishings can generally be left till last.
Most things can be done without too much difficulty

3. Campervan Planning Tools

Converting a campervan from scratch requires a range of skills and knowledge and hopefully this is where we can help. We have a myriad of articles both by us and the community so have a good look around!  There is no reason why you can't do all the tasks required yourself. However before working with gas or electrics make sure you are sure you know what you are doing.  For any aspect of your conversion, if in doubt, get professional help.

Optional floor plan for a campervan

4. Sketch your Campervan Layout

Once you know what you want in your van, you need to work out how to fit it all in…squeezing beds, stoves and sinks inside a van can often seem unlikely. A quick sketch might just help you see how (or if) everything will fit. Draw out the floor plan and if possible a number of 3D internal views of your van from different angles. It can be handy here to rope in a friend who is skilled with a pencil and paper if you're less than artistic!! If you can draw these to scale all the better but ensure you have an accurate set of internal measurements for when you come to make and fit things.

It can be useful to chalk out floor layouts or create cardboard cut outs of furniture so you can get an impression of how things will look, and more importantly, fit.

An optional side view plan

5. Campervan Layout Suggestions...

Have a look at the pictures on this page to see an example of a planned conversion project, of what you might put where.

In general it is best to plan everything roughly before buying any appliances, although, if you already have items from a previous campervan or conversion i.e. a stove or bench seat then you can place this in the van and move it about to get an idea of layouts. This obviously restricts you but also gives you a frame of reference. Sometimes having nothing fixed it can be really hard to know where to start!! Deciding on a couple of items which you can’t cope without is a recommended way to start, and then working out where to fit them comes next before deciding what else can be crammed into the inside of your van.  

The initial planning stage is nice and cheap and easy.  All you really need are:

  • Tape Measure
  • Pencil and Paper
  • Inspiration

You might think that a spirit level is essential, but be careful – vans are rarely parked properly flat and as soon as you climb in it starts rocking about!  Time, lots of cups of tea, some good tunes on the radio and a mate to chat about the endless possibilities are more useful!  And of course, if you keep regularly reading through the info on this site... well, you can't go wrong!

Have a flick through the following articles to help you along from the planning stage through to the finished product!