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A van conversion requires you to mount a lot of different things during the building process. Chances are, you’ll go through many different types of screws as well as other fasteners when converting your van. It’s important that you choose the right fastener for the job and understand that just because someone else uses a certain fastener, doesn’t mean that’s the one you should use.
Van conversions are as unique as the people converting them. With umpteen different screws and fasteners to choose from, there is no one-size-fits-all. Instead, you’ll need to choose the best fastener for your specific application.
With that being said, there are a few types of screws that just make sense in a van conversion and end up being used by many van builders. I can only speak from experience of what I found useful in my van build and what I have seen other van builders use throughout my travels.
Let’s look at some of the different screws and fasteners that you may find yourself using during a van conversion.
Types of Screws To Use in a Van
The most usable type of screw in a van conversion is known as a self-drilling screw. These are great for drilling into metal and can be used to attach anything to the metal framing of your van. Some people use these throughout their entire build to mount furring strips, walls, ceiling material, or anything else that can be screwed directly into the metal.
These types of screws make quick work of an installation and only require a drill and a proper bit to install. These often have a hex head so they can easily be drilled in using a hex bit. You can also find them with Phillips heads but a hex head is much easier to work with, in my opinion. A flatter Phillips head may sometimes be necessary for an area where a more flush installation is required.
Self-drilling screws don’t require a separate hole to be drilled. Instead, the screw itself drills the hole since it has a short drill point on the tip of the screw. It drills the hole as the screw follows along behind tightening to the metal material.
If you are installing furring strips or anything else directly to the metal framing of your van, these are easy to use and quick to work with. They are cheap and fairly secure for most projects.
Standard Multi-purpose Construction Screws
Standard multi-purpose screws will be needed when you are attaching furniture and other wooden parts. For this application, it’s best to use a zinc-coated or stainless screw so that you don’t run into rust or corrosion in the future.
I used many boxes of various screws like this throughout my build. I prefer SPAX screws as these are mostly corrosion-resistant, lightweight, and super strong. Most importantly, they hold tightly! They can be found at most any hardware store. If not SPAX, you can find something similar in other brands.
I used various sizes including 1-inch, 1 1/4-inch, 1 1/2-inch, and 2 1/2-inch for most of the applications in my van conversion. The ones I installed in my van conversion still look the same now as they did when I installed them, which has been a few years now.
Beyond screws, you’ll likely require bolts along the way. Sometimes it makes sense to use the holes already in your van and utilize standard nuts and bolts to install items. As an example, I used the holes already in the van to install my bed framing to the sides of the van. I was able to use bolts and nuts to get a good secure hold that I wouldn’t have been able to achieve with only screws.
When using bolts, opt for the zinc-coated ones or stainless to ensure they last for the life of the conversion.
You may need to use bolts in many different applications as you run into odd situations and have to be creative to make it work. Sometimes bolts are the better option when you need a little more strength for holding something tightly. A strong bolt and nut are going to hold stronger and not pull out like a screw might do over time.
In situations where you want more strength but are not able to use a standard bolt and nut, you may opt for one of the next fasteners below.
Rivnuts & Plusnuts
These types of nuts are designed to be installed blindly and make a great option for a van conversion. When you don’t have access to the back of a piece of metal, you can drill a hole, install one of these, and then you have a threaded bolt hole in which to thread your bolt into.
While both of these are great options, Plusnuts are super strong and have a higher pull-out strength. Plusnuts are a superior product in many ways. However, I chose Rivnuts in my van conversion and have been happy with them. The key is to make sure you have the proper installation tool. If you try to cut corners and make your own contraption, you may be able to make it work but it won’t be consistent.
If you are going to go this route, make sure you purchase the correct tools for the job. Rivnuts need a tool to properly seat them. When used correctly, they provide an extremely strong hold. My entire ceiling and walls are held up using Rivnuts and they haven’t budged in the couple of years that I have been traveling. Using the proper tool makes quick work of Rivnut installation and ensures that it maintains the highest pull-out strength possible.
Plusnuts are going to be the more expensive option but will give you greater peace of mind with their superior holding strength (if you need that). A similar tool is also needed for a Plusnut but may be more forgiving to set using standard tools.
Plusnuts can be installed in thicker material so if you are trying to install a blind fastener in thicker metal, a Plusnut will be the way to go. Otherwise, both of these options are outstanding and make a great way to install items in your van by utilizing some of the holes already there.
If you are converting a van just know that there are many different options for you to use. While there are a few preferred ones amongst van builders, it comes down to your personal preference as well as the type of fastener that makes the most sense in your scenario. You’ll likely figure it out along the way and settle on a solution that works best for you.
The important thing is to make sure the fastener is going to hold tight. A moving vehicle requires a little more thought than a stationary structure. You want to make sure the screws and bolts you use won’t back out over time and create a dangerous scenario with items falling off the wall or ceiling.
The screws and bolts mentioned in the article above are the only types of screws and fasteners I used other than Velcro or magnets in certain areas. As far as the structural build of your van interior, you’ll want to use the sturdiest fastener you can possibly use to ensure that it will not come loose in the future.