Back in March we bought a VW T5 van, and decided to turn it into a camper van. There were a couple of reasons for this, the main one being having a big dog and it being hard to find accommodation, the other being we thought it’d be cool.
So we looked at campers already done, and they just looked a bit… naff. They were really over priced too. People were asking for £30,000 for vans just because they could. We both had quite a clear idea of what we wanted and what we wanted to spend, so decided to make a van ourselves.
We bought a standard T5 van, cleaned it out, pulled up the floors, washed it all properly because it was a worker’s van before that, and basically just stripped it back to basics.
Windows help the van to look less of a van and more of a camper, and bring a bit more light into the back, so we took it to a local garage and got the rear panels cut out, then asked a local company called bow windscreen repairs if they could install the side windows, which they did beautifully.
Then we put up sound proofing. We bought Silent Coat as we’d read loads about people’s opinions on the best thing to do and how to do it, and I think it comes down to your budget and preference at the end of it, but seriously check out forums like the VW T5 forum – it saved us from making so many bad choices and mistakes. Turns out, a cake spatula is actually really handy for putting this stuff up – it helps to push the sound deadening into the sides and under gaps you can’t do with your fingers, plus the stuff’s so sharp that you cut your hands without even realising it. This was pretty easy to put up and it’s sticky on one side. We did all of the side panels and a bit of the floor with one pack.
Next, we put the insulating in. We had heard so many different opinions about this in the T5 forum, and after looking into it a bit, decided to go with B&Q home eco loft insulation, was really easy to put in and did the job quite nicely, although it was really smelly when installing it.
Not sure if it’s the right logic, but my thoughts behind it was the one we got is a polyester and wool blend, covers 1.11m2 but is 4.55m²K/W and 200m thick. The other option we were looking at was Knauf Ecoroll which covers 8.3 m² but is 2.25m²K/W and 100m thick, so we would have had to double it up. Plus it was glass fibre, which I’d heard mixed reviews about.
We also used flashing tape to seal up gaps and connect things together and we used this loft insulation as a vapour barrier.
Tony set up the wiring after that, before the boards went back in, we bought 6mm panels pre cut from Ebay and they were pretty easy to install.
He also put in some shiny new headlights that he was obsessed about and I have to admit it does make a difference, plus they’re so pretty haha.
The fabric for the side panels is the one thing I’d advise you pay someone to do. Tony and his friend Andrew put this in, and it took them two days non stop. It was really difficult to work with, hard to cut, was a pain to install, the clips wouldn’t go in so we had to order extra long ones and they hated every minute of it. Both of them said if they’d known what it’d be like they wouldn’t have done it, and would happily have paid someone.
The ceiling was actually surprisingly easy. After the walls, they were dreading doing the ceiling but the panel was easy to cut, the lights were easy to install, and the fabric went on like a dream.
We then put the floor panel down, which was pre cut from Ebay too. We decided to go with 9mm as I’d read 12mm can sometimes be too much, and the 9mm turned out to be perfect. Then we laid down the vinyl floor, let it sit for a couple of days and then glued it down.
The units were a pain to build. We bought the 4.4 flat pack kit from Evo Design. Ordered it on the weekend, and it was delivered by Thursday which was an amazement, as it had a 2 week prep time quoted. The instructions though, were terrible. They were literally just 2 drawings of what the units would look like once they were put together. We basically had to guess everything. But once they were in, they looked ok. There were a couple of snags with the finish, like a bit of the panel didn’t have a groove in for the trim, and the draw catch above the fridge didn’t meet no matter how much we tried to adjust it. I emailed the company and they replied quickly with advice about moving the catch (although we’d already tried it and it hadn’t worked) and offered to send a replacement panel out, but by that time we’d already installed it and didn’t want to take it all back out. All in all though, it really does look pretty and it’s functional which is perfect.
There’s loads of steps and loads of work Tony did, such as the wiring, and installing the gas etc that I haven’t put in, simply because he’s just good with things like that and doesn’t follow instructions, it’s all in his head how to do it, and he did a lot of it while I was at work so there aren’t any photos. I’d say it’s definitely worth doing your research beforehand though. Look at your budget, price things up, put a bit extra aside for things you might not expect. There’s a great thread on the T5 forum called Hindsight- or “What you’d differently if you were converting your camper again?” which is fantastic, loads of great tips found on that too. Any questions, please do feel free to just ask.
Hopefully, we can get out and start using it soon, just in time for summer.