Begining your campervan build is a very exciting journey. Before you can get to the really exciting stuff, you need to build a base for your build. This means starting with a floor. Before you can lay down your campervan flooring such as vinyl, you need to create a subfloor. A subfloor will ensure that your van is well insulated and the vinyl won’t be as likely to shift.
After our second cargo van, we have learned a few things and know how important it is to have a solid subfloor. Our first build was a Dodge Sprinter and our second a Ford Transit. Both are very similar in size and the subfloor is basically the same process.
To learn how to create a subfloor easily with insulation and WITHOUT screwing holes into your floor check out these 8 easy steps to creating a campervan subfloor.
Table of Contents
Step 1) Empty and Sweep the Van Floor
To begin working on your subfloor you need to start simple. If there is anything inside your van, whether it be boxes or any attachments inside your cargo van then get rid of all of it. If you bought a van with anything attached such as a barrier or shelves, remove them.
Next, you will want to sweet the floor and make sure the van is empty of any dust or debris. We swept a few times and then went back over the flooring with a blower. Honestly, this blower is such a great addition to our tools and something we will keep with us on the road.
Step 2) Scrub Campervan flooring with Soap and Water
We are now preparing the floor to be painted and assessed for rust which means it needs to be thoroughly cleaned with soap and water. We used shop rags and made a small bowl of soap and water to clean the floor. It’s important to scrub off any dirt, sticky residue, or anything else as you want to be able to find any rust that may be hiding on the floor. After scrubbing the floor, cleanse your rags and wipe down the floor with water to rinse off any soap.
Step 3) Get Rid of Rust & Covering Holes
Check over your entire floor, wheel wheels, and walls for any rust. If you find any, use a wire brush to scrub off all rust. It’s important to scrub off any rust so your floor does not begin to rust out underneath your build. Not to mention if any water were to get underneath your flooring it would only make your rust worse.
Clean out all rust spots and make sure all metal shavings are out of the van. If you have a TON Of rust then I recommend checking out The Vanual to getting rid of rust and follow their steps. DO NOT ignore rust! You will end up rotting your entire floor and will find yourself out of a home!
If you had any shelves or attachments in your van you had to take out, now is the time to cover up your holes. You don’t want to leave any holes in your van that lead to outside. In our Sprinter van, we had a few holes in our floor and used thin sheet metal to cover up the hole and used silicone in between. Let thoroughly dry.
Step 4) Spray Scratches with Rustoleum
After everything has dried, use a can of Rustoleum to cover any scratches on your flooring, wheel wheels, and walls. Make sure to tape off any areas that you do not want to be covered in paint. Shake can vigorously for one minute and begin spraying your floor to cover all scratches. Our Ford Transit was so covered in scratches, we ended up needing 3 full cans and basically painted the entire floor.
Step 5) Adding a Sound Dampener
Cargo vans are loud. Even with the build completely in, the van can still be really loud to drive. This is why it is important to do everything you can to lessen the sounds that can come through the exterior of the van. One of the easiest things you can do is something called Rattletrap.
Basically Rattletrap reduces vibrations which reduces road noise. It is popular among car gurus and comes stock in Transits and Sprinter vans (not enough but you will see it in the cargo area). The great thing about rattletrap is that you only need to cover 30% of an area for it to be effective. Anything over that won’t decrease vibrations or sound.
For our build, we were able to utilize the remaining roll that we used on our first Sprinter van flooring. This time we only put rattletrap on the wheel wells and on the back half of the van. The reasoning being that the drive shaft is in the back of the van and where a large amount of noise comes from. We did not choose to put it on the walls or ceiling as we are doing spray foam insulation for the rest of the build.
Step 6) Add 2×2’s and XPS Insulation
The next step is to get your base down. We chose to lay down 2×2’s in the crevices of the van floor and glue them down. This allows you a place to screw down your plywood subfloor without making a hole in your van floor. We discovered this method from Vanessa and Adam who have great tutorials on this method.
When you are laying out your boards, consider where you want the back of the floor to start. If your van is not square in the back, then you will not be able to have a metal threshold. Consider starting further back to allow for your flooring to be square.
Once your 2×2’s are cut and in place, fill in the gaps with 1 inch XPS insulation. This does mean that there will a tiny bit of space on your floor that has a gap. If you are worried about this gap you could put reflectix on top of the insulation and 2×2’s or fill in the gaps with ½ inch insulation. We chose to leave it with a small gap.
Ford Transit Pro Tip: The Ford Transit is not square in the back of the van. This means if you want to add a stainless threshold on the edge of your van (so you don’t damage your wood carrying items in and out of the back of the van). There is a plastic threshold that many Transits come with which pushes the edge of the van flooring back about 6 inches and makes the flooring edge square. We ended up deciding to purchase the plastic threshold so we could have a metal threshold without worrying about the curve of the van.
This is what we ordered from OEM (prices are subject to change)
|Rear Sill Plate
|Rear Sill Plate Screw (Pack of 4)
|Door Trim Panel Retainer Nut
|Scuff Plate Cap
|Total with tax and shipping
Step 7) Make a template
One of the best ways to make sure your campervan subfloor is nice and tight is to create a template. If you already have a subfloor then consider yourself lucky if it is still in good shape you can utilize this as your plywood or if it is not in great shape then use it for your template.
The best option is to buy butcher’s paper and tape it together to draw out your flooring. Some other options are cardboard, paper grocery sacks, etc. After it is created utilize it to make your cuts on your plywood.
Step 8) Add in ½ Inch Plywood
Your plywood is the final touch to your campervan subfloor. For our Transit, we used three sheets of ½ Sande plywood which is in the middle when it comes to quality. It was priced around $35 a sheet $10 less per sheet compared to Birch plywood which is around $46 a sheet. Birch plywood is less likely to be warped and is a nicer wood. It’s a budget decision that you have to make!
Our recommendation is to paint Kilz on your subfloor wood to help prevent mold and mildew which can, in turn, rust your metal flooring. Make sure and get the Kilz that specifies that it prevents mold and mildew.
On our Sprinter van flooring, it came with a subfloor so we only had to add insulation which was a huge plus for us! If you have a subfloor consider using it instead of plywood to save time and money.
Items Needed for Campervan Subfloor
Campervan Subfloor FAQ
What thickness plywood for campervan floor?
- We used 1/2 inch Sande plywood for our campervan floor as we didn’t want to add too much for the height.
What is the thickness of the campervan subfloor?
- With the method we used, our subfloor is 2.5 inches thick
Now that you have your subfloor built out you can begin to think about what you would like to do for your flooring. Check out our guide on Campervan flooring options and installation.