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Building out a campervan yourself can be extremely rewarding, knowing that you took the time to build out the exact camper van of your dreams through your own hard work and time. It can also extremely taxing mentally and physically. Pushing yourself to learn new things and build inside of a vehicle that is not necessarily meant to be built inside of. These tips for building out a campervan will help you be prepared for when you decide to begin your van life journey.
After building out 3 vans and spending three years on the road, we have come up with a few tips to keep you sane and help you prepare yourself for the journey that is building out a camper van. Read on for our best advice whether you are building out your first, second, or third van build.
Invest in Tools
The best advice we could give you is to invest in proper tools. When you are working with weird curves and angles, it’s important to have the best tools for the job. Items such as a table saw a circular saw, power drills, and sawhorses. It can be tempting to try and get by with the minimum to save money but you will end up sacrificing time and possibly supplies when you have to redo your project.
I recommend taking inventory of the products that you already have and the ones you need to purchase and making a budget for them. These are the top products we recommend making sure you have before begun your build. You can absolutely do this with less but these are the tools that would have made our life much easier to have from the very beginning.
- Table Saw
- Circular Saw
- Cordless Drill
- Saw Horses
- Buy An Ebook
I am a fan of supporting the community and always have a ton of resources available when starting a new project. This is why I recommend purchasing a van build Ebook before you begin. There are quite a few Ebooks out there that have plans for different builds. We personally purchased Vanessa and Adams Ebook and highly recommend it. They cover everything you need to know about building out your van from insulation to electrical to cabinetry.
Do Hours of Research
Unless you are already a carpenter, prepare yourself for hours and hours of research. Check out Youtube videos, read blog posts, and get ready to plan for quite a while. Although it can be tempting to just dive right in, make sure you take the time to figure out how to do the build before beginning.
I am the kind of person who wants to simply dive in and hope for the best but in a camper van build that can get you into a lot of trouble and will end up wasting time and supplies. If you know you are working on a project, for example, your insulation, take an hour before and watch a video or read a post so that you 100% understand what you are about to get into. It will also prepare you so that you can purchase everything that you need in advance so you don’t have to make multiple trips for one project.
Give Yourself A Long Deadline
It’s time to be realistic with yourself. If you are planning on building your van and being out of your current home with a certain timeline, then you need to give yourself plenty of time. Building out a camper van TAKES TIME, probably much longer than you will imagine. When we built out our Transit we thought it would take two months maybe three. Instead, it took over six months and when we hit the road, there were still many projects to be completed.
If you do have a deadline that you cannot control, try to dedicate as much time as you can to your build realizing that you might have to hit the road before it’s completely finished.
Ask for Help
To piggyback off the previous tip, it’s so so important to ASK FOR HELP. Asking friends and family to help you will likely save you tons of time and frustration. It can also be a lot of fun and a bonding experience to have help on your build. You would be surprised by the various projects that your friends may have expertise in and are more than willing to help.
Order Products Early
Van life is getting more and more popular as time goes on. This means that key products such as your fan, oven, and campervan toilet will take longer to get to you. When we ordered our airhead toilet, it took over 6 weeks for it to get to use and the Max air fan was constantly out of stock.
This is why once you know for sure that you are going to begin your build, I recommend beginning to purchase the bigger items. That way you don’t have to wait a few weeks because you are waiting on solar or a fan and can’t get anything else done until it arrives.
Plan your Layout Ahead of Time
If you haven’t gotten the hint, planning is key when it comes to building out a campervan. If you can, really sit down and plan out your entire layout. Think about what is important to you in a tiny home. Do you really love to cook? Or do you need a space to work? Do you mind having a bed that you have to convert to every day or do you need a dedicated space for sleeping?
Scour the internet, go to meetups, and if you can tour other vans so you get an idea of what you want out of your build. I also recommend, if you have the extra budget, to rent a campervan so you can experience what it is like to live in a tiny space. Even a short weekend will give you a better idea of what you want of a campervan.
Be Kind To Yourself
It’s time to be extremely kind to yourself. You are building a tiny home in a space with weird angles, curves, and space where nothing is straight. You are going to make mistakes and are probably going to be very frustrated with yourself. That is 100% normal and happens to everyone. These builds can be exceptionally challenging and it’s important to take a step back sometimes and give yourself some grace. You are doing a great job and will figure it all out with time and patience.
Prepare for Changes
Speaking of having patience, when building out a campervan, prepare for constant change. You may have an idea of how you will be building a certain section and what it will look like and mid-way through you discover that it simply cannot work. Be prepared that the method you want to do simply won’t work.
Being perfect is not the key when and began touring other building out a campervan but instead, you should absolutely expect errors. It can be easy to look at campervans on Instagram and assume their builds are impeccable with zero mistakes or errors. It was not until we hit the road and toured other people’s vans and realized that no one has a perfect van. Most vans have a ton of mistakes but in the end, you will still end up loving it because you built it and put so much love into it.
Bonus: Keep Receipts or Only use one Card
If at all possible try to keep receipts and a log of every single thing that you buy. If you are shopping at Home Depot, try using only one card. If you need, they are able to print out everything you have purchased on that card at any Home Depot store (I believe they save for a year).