What Lies Ahead Van Build Guide: Walls, Ceiling, and Our Two Beds

Hi all, Noah here. I’m combining the walls/ceiling section of our guide with our bed builds because after going over our insulation use in our floor post, there’s not a ton of extra info to touch upon! This past summer, we also stripped and rebuilt our bed for a completely different interior arrangement, so I’ll note both here. Let’s get started!

Walls and Ceiling

Just like with the floor, the first step is of course stripping and scrubbing the van interior. With our Nissan NV2500, this involved removing particle board wall panels and even metal accessory tracks from the van’s bygone hauling days. The cleaning step here is always simple, but also time-consuming and laborious.

Unlike with our flooring, we only used fiberglass batting as our sole form of insulation. The way our Nissan is framed out left big gaps between the exterior and the actual framing strips, making it exceedingly simple to stuff fiberglass batting into the walls of the van. The ceiling was the same – our Nissan’s ceiling is segmented into roughly 14″-wide portions, and the fiberglass batting fit perfectly. The only note here is we filled hard-to-reach crevices and the inside of the framing beams with Great Stuff expanding foam so that we weren’t leaving pockets of air where moisture might accumulate.

We used 1/4″ sanded plywood for both the walls and the ceiling. Because our living space is about 9′ long, two 4’x8′ sheets of plywood could easily be cut to fit each section. Six sheets were used in total, with spare strips of remaining plywood used to fill the final cracks of exposed wall, about 6″ on each side of the larger pieces. Like with our floor, I used a jigsaw to cut the wall pieces to fit around the wheel wells (first creating cardboard stencils, of course), and rust-resistant, self-tapping screws secured the plywood to the frame of the van. Most of the process here is virtually identical to the way we laid our floor, so by the time we finished the walls and ceiling, our workflow felt fluid and simple!

The Stationary Bed

Our first bed was a fixed bed that sat about 3′ high, and we designed the bed specifically to have ample storage space for our travels. The build here was actually exceedingly simple.

Three ~4′ tall 2″x4″ planks were mounted vertically along each wall at the rear of the van, screwed directly into the frame for stability, and I cut out a rabbet joint from the top of each board. As you can see in the image below, the rearmost board reaches the floor, but the next two on each side were cut to rest on top of our wheel wells. From there, three more 2″x4″ planks were cut to run from wall to wall, fitting directly into the previously cut rabbet joints.

Next, a handful of 1″x3″ planks were cut to fit the width of our bed (which ran about 4 feet). They were screwed directly into the top of the frontmost and rearmost 2″x4″ boards, and we quickly had a surface for a mattress to sit on! For a mattress, we used an old foam mattress from a pull-out couch. We cut the mattress to fit the dimensions of our bed, threw it into a weatherproof case, and it was ready to go! The rest of the form of our bed came about as we constructed our living area seating and table, which will be detailed in an upcoming blog post.

The Convertible Bed

We realized relatively quickly that our stationary bed setup wasn’t quite to our tastes. We could store so much, but we truly brought along a TON of items that we practically never touched. When we visited home for a portion of the summer, we decided to rebuild the stationary bed into the common convertible bed setup, wherein a full-size table lowers down to fit among benches lining the walls, becoming a surface for your cushions to turn into a mattress.

Well, our convertible bed setup is HUGE. Our last bed took up 4′ of cabin space, and our new full bed is the same 5’10 width from wall-to-wall, but now it stretches a full 6 feet.

Here, we framed out benches in a U shape using our leftover 2″x4″ and 1″x3″ boards. Each van tackling this setup will have completely different measurements – the key here is figuring out your desired table size, centering it on your floor, and measuring the distance between your table and each wall. Our benches are 2′ tall (cutting off a foot of height from our previous bed) but they are also 2′ deep. Ultimately, we ended up with roughly the same amount of storage space!

Once the benches were framed out, we walled off the interior sides of the benches with decorative 1/4″ painted masonite. It was cheap, looks clean, and was an easy way to add a homey touch to our cabin area! We added the same masonite boards to portions of our walls during this renovation period, and we are much more happy with the way our van looks. Simple details can go a long way!

Our table was mounted onto the rear bench using a removeable, swiveling table mount. Finally, as seen in the TikTok above, we topped the benches with large 1/2″ plywood pieces, hinged to turn the benches into chest-like storage spaces. Another TikTok of the table and benches in action can be found here.

For the new mattress, we hand-made large cushions that fit the seating and converted easily into a bed. Our previous mattress was slightly too thin, so we cut the old mattress plus another foam mattress topper into five cushions worth of material: a large cushion for the rear bench, two medium-sized cushions for the side seats, and two long, thin cushions as seat backs which sit along the walls. In bed mode, the seat back cushions slide down flat, and the main side bench cushions slide center to cover the table. We’ll say it: the bed is huge… and we love it.

Did we miss anything? Feel free to reach out to us via our contact page if you have any questions about our build! Each van build is unique to the van and the adventurers living in it, so I tend to cover our thought process rather than type out a big ol’ wood cut list, but if there’s anything specific you’re wondering, don’t be afraid to reach out!

Notes

  • We did not cover the rear doors with any insulation or plywood. Instead, we attached four coat hooks to the door, and our many coats and sweatshirts do a good enough job of retaining any heat that could escape!
  • One issue with our stationary bed build was that a portion of our stored items was exclusively accessible through the back doors. With our bench setup, all of our storage can be accessed inside.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s