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Shiplap is a popular wall covering for conversion vans mainly because it looks so darn good. In my opinion, it’s one of the best-looking wall coverings that you can have in a van.
It looks awesome in a house and I find it especially appealing in a converted van or a remodeled RV.
There are three main reasons that I chose shiplap for my van conversion.
- I LOVE the way it looks. It gives more character to the living space than what you would have if you just had a plain wall.
- It’s easy to install. It was especially easy for me to install in my van layout since I didn’t have to do the entire walls, only sections.
- It’s lightweight. The 1/2″ shiplap that I chose was very light. Although it does add up the more you use, It didn’t add a lot of extra weight to the end result.
When I was first planning my walls, I wasn’t sure what else I would use because I didn’t just want a solid plywood wall. I wanted to create a space that I would be happy to spend time in and shiplap made the most sense to me.
It was an affordable option since I didn’t need a lot of it for my van. Since I have cabinets and full shower and other areas that take up wall space, I only needed small amounts of it in sections where the wall was exposed.
The wall covering was one of the final projects after all the other structures were finished and everything that needed to be behind the walls was in place.
Parts I used
I purchased these at my local Home Depot. It’s made from pine wood, it’s already primed and it’s lightweight so it doesn’t add a lot of additional weight to my van.
It’s really easy to install and butts up against each other, creating a consistent spacing throughout. It’s easy to cut with a miter saw and work with.
I chose a miter saw because you can get straight cuts on the ends. I never used a full-length plank on any of my walls so I never had to butt any ends up against each other.
However, I still wanted the end pieces to look completely straight. If you are installing full-length planks throughout your van, you will need to make sure each cut is straight so that it will butt up against the next plank without any crooked gaps.
A miter saw is a great way to achieve this.
Be sure to use a fine tooth blade with your miter saw.
- Jigsaw. You may need a jigsaw to cut around odd areas in the van or places where electrical outlets or switches will go.
- Drill & Impact Driver. You’ll need a drill to install these if you choose to use screws. Without drilling first, you risk splitting the wood. It also makes it easier and quicker to drive in screws.
- Drill Bits. I used a 1/8 inch bit for the screw size that I used. I used a 1/2 inch bit as a starting hole in some of the areas that needed jigsawing.
- Countersink bit
- SPAX, #8 1 1/4 Inch Screws. These are sufficient for holding in the planks but you’ll need to choose a length that works for your project.
- Tape Measure
- Speed Square
- Paint. I used whisper white, satin finish that I purchased from Home Depot.
How To Install Shiplap In A Conversion Van
The first thing that I did on my walls was to make sure I had something to screw the shiplap panels to. I used furring strips for this purpose. These allowed the shiplap planks to sit evenly on the walls and be held securely.
One reason that you should use furring strips is so that you will have a consistent place to screw or nail the shiplap boards into.
That way, when you are done with it, all of your screws are in line with each other down the wall. Of course, if you are going to cover up the holes with spackling or wood filler and then paint over it, this part might not matter.
After the furring strips are in place, you can begin the process of installing the planks.
I would suggest screwing the boards to the wall because you don’t want them coming loose, similar to the cedar ceiling that I installed.
However, I chose to use a combination of screws and nails for my shiplap install. Since I installed mine by myself, a nail gun made it easy to initially hang the planks so I wouldn’t have to fumble around with a drill and screws. I then went back and added screws at each location where a nail had been.
When using only nails, there is a chance that they will back themselves out over time. This is especially something that could happen in a vehicle that’s subjected to road vibrations regularly.
Screws could come out over time as well but it’s less likely.
Installing shiplap a real simple process, perhaps one of the simplest but most rewarding parts of my van build. Below, I have listed the exact steps I used and I have included pictures of the process.
Step 1 – Measure The Length You Need
Once you have furring strips and you are clear on where you want to shiplap to hang, you will just need to take some measurements.
You are going to want to start either at the top or the bottom and then work your way towards the opposite direction. I started at the top and worked my way down since the last shiplap is probably going to require some kind of cutting.
I wanted a full-width board where the eyes are going to see.
In my case, I started at the top and then I measured horizontally to find out the plank lengths.
Step 2 – Cut To Length
I cut my planks one at a time and then installed each one before I continued onto the next one. Once you install one, you’ll want to re-measure to make sure the next one fits perfectly.
Once you have the plank cut to length, it’s time to screw it to the furring strips.
Step 3 – Screw Plank To Wall Using Furring Strips
With your fresh cut plank, you’ll need to hold it to the wall and attach it using whatever method you choose. I used nails initially to get the planks held in place and then I used screws once it was in place.
I used a 1/8 drill bit to drill through the plank and into the furring strip just a little bit (not too far).
I would suggest using a drill or impact driver to drive the screw in. You can use a screwdriver if that’s all you have but it’s so much easier with a drill.
You’ll need to use the proper length screws for this. The screws I used were 1 1/4 inch long. Make sure to measure and use a long enough screw that it will hold tightly. You don’t want to use a short screw that barely bites into the furring strips.
Some of the tricky areas were around corners or in areas where outlets need to be. I had to cut around these to create a hole for the outlets to be installed into.
I used the same process as I did on my ceiling since it is a similar type of install. I would drill a 1/8 inch hole through the shiplap and then I would round out the top of the hole with a countersink bit.
This allowed the screw head to sit into the plank a little bit, creating an area for me to cover up the hole with sparkling.
Continue with steps 1 – 3 until the shiplap wall is finished for the section of wall you are working on.
Step 4 – Patch Holes
After a full wall was done and I had made it from top to bottom, I patched up my holes using spackling. You can wait and do this after the installation is finished throughout the whole van if you choose.
I preferred doing one wall at a time just to split up the work but you may prefer a different way.
After the spackling had dried, I sanded each spot until it was smooth and prepared for painting.
Step 5 – Paint
You’ll probably want to paint your shiplap to give it that finished look. The painting was my least favorite part but it had to be done. I used Whisper White that I had blended at The Home Depot in a satin finish.
I used a combination of foam brushes and foam rollers to get the smoothest finish I could.
There isn’t much to it. It’s a pretty simple project to do and the end result is worth the time and effort that it takes to install it.
I’m very happy with the way mine turned out and it helped me create a bright space in my small van that makes me feel at home when I am in it.
Once all the shiplap was finished, I finished the project by adding quarter-round trim to any areas where gaps existed.
This allowed me to create a neat and clean install while not having to worry so much about the gaps as I was installing the shiplap.
You will always have areas where gaps exist. The areas that I covered with trim were mainly around the areas where the shiplap butted up against the cabinets. By adding quarter-round trim, I made it look like a more finished product like what you would see in a house.
For these trim pieces, I used brad nails to hold them in. Screws are just too large for this small of trim so I’m hoping the nails alone will hold it tightly for years to come.
Overall, installing shiplap is a very simple process, even in a van. It may be even easier in a non-moveable structure because the walls will probably be square. A van has a curvature and nothing is square in a van so some parts can be a challenge.
You will find this issue during the whole van conversion so it’s probably nothing new to you by now if you are going through that process.
- Use card stock paper to create templates around odd areas. You can tape small pieces together to create the perfect template and then it’s easy to transfer that template to a plank. and then cut those areas out with a jigsaw.
- Make sure to hold each plank tightly against the last one so that it installs straight.
- Give extra care to the first plank. Getting the first one straight is critical to getting all the other ones straight. If you aren’t sure if it’s straight, you can measure from each side of the plank to the floor or ceiling and make sure each side measures the same.
In the end, you’ll end up with a nice looking shiplap wall that makes your van look like a home. It will give it a high-quality look and it also adds more character.
Some of the best looking van designs that I’ve seen have shiplap walls so when I was planning my own conversion van, I wanted to make sure I emulated that same look using my own layout.
Sometimes when I am in my van, I feel like it has a nautical theme with the shiplap walls. It makes me feel comfy and cozy when I’m in it.
After using it for over a year now, everything is working out great! No screws or nails have come out of the walls and all of the shiplap is still as tight as it was the day I installed it. The brad nails are still holding tight in the quarter-round trim that I used.
Over time, that could change and there may be areas that I will need to tweak or fix but I have not faced that problem yet.
This was a fun little project and made the van feel more like home.