Camper Van floor layers
Van Build / 27th Jan 2022

Camper Van Flooring

Flooring, Flooring Everywhere

If you're like me, you don't give a lot of thought to the floors you stand on every day. When it came to install one in my van conversion, however, it turned out that - maybe unsurprisingly - there's quite a lot of things involved in flooring, especially flooring in a vehicle like this!

Insulation

Price $290

Buy from Amazon

VanTred

Pre-shaped polyethylene foam floor liner, serving as insulation layer.

Subfloor

Price $90

Buy from Somewhere local!

1/4" plywood

I used four 4x8 foot sheets, prefinished and sanded, from my local home improvement store

Price $4

Buy from Home Depot, Lowes, Amazon

Great Stuff Gaps & Cracks

Used to foam around the edge of the subfloor/insulation to make it level and provide additional insulation

Price $20

Buy from Home Depot

Flashing Tape

I used this to secure the plywood together as it's reasonably strong and wide, but a lot of things will work here.

Flooring

Price $330

Buy from Home Depot

Lifeproof Dusk Cherry Luxury Vinyl Plank

Four boxes would have technically just worked, but I bought five as I knew I would make mistakes.

Tools

Table Saw

For ripping and crosscutting flooring planks. You could also use a circular saw for this.

Circular Saw

For cutting up big plywood sheets. You could also use a table saw for this if it had big extension tables, but it's tricky!

Jigsaw

For cutting out finer detail in the flooring planks and the subfloor. A coping saw will also work but it's a lot tougher.

Price $20

Buy from Amazon

3M 90 Spray Adhesive

For gluing layers together as needed

Price $50

Buy from Amazon

Organic vapour respirator

You don't want to use the 3M 90 without one of these

Price $15-20

Buy from Amazon, Home Depot

Deadblow Hammer

For tapping in flooring without damaging it

Price About $10

Buy from Home Depot

Pry bar

For getting the last row in more easily

Prices reflect what I paid, not current pricing. Some links may be affiliate links.

Materials

Floors need insulation, just like walls and ceilings. However, how much they need depends on what kind of environment your van will be in. If your van is generally going to be colder than the outside environment, then floor insulation is important as it'll be where the biggest heat delta is in your van (the heavier, colder air inside versus the hot outside).

However, if your van is generally going to be warmer than the outside environment - which here, in the high-altitude mountain west, is going to generally be the case - then the roof insulation ends up being more important for the opposite reason. Floor insulation is still useful, don't get me wrong, but it's going to have less of an effect on overall temperature.

Floor insulation is also more limited a selection than in other locations - you need a material that can take a human foot compression load, which generally means you're going to end up with some sort of solid, closed-cell foam.

The two main options I've read up on are:

Normally, you'd go buy these in sheets and cut them to size around the ridges in the van floor so you get a nice level surface, but if you go with the polyethylene foam, there is a pre-made product called VanTred that comes pre-cut and shaped for the ridges and the van walls/wheel wells. Since I was going to pick polyethylene anyway, and I'm lazy, this is what I went with.

Installation? Put the mat in the van. Though, before you do that, you may want to use it as a template for your subfloor!

Subfloor

Subfloors are important - they are an important part of the floor's structural stability - keeping it flat and stopping it moving around - as well as a place to fasten things into, like cabinetry. For this reason, you would generally use 1/2" - 3/4" (12 - 18mm) plywood.

However, I am taking things a bit riskier - I'm using 1/4" (6mm) plywood. The reasons for this are threefold:

For this reason, I made the tradeoff and went with the thinner plywood. We'll see how it holds up over time, but it feels good and solid now once it's installed with the flooring on it.

Installation process:

  1. Trace out the outline of the van floor on your sheets of plywood. This is a lot easier if you have a pre-shaped cargo mat to use as a template! Remember to leave a gap around the edge, you don't want it touching the sheet metal.
  2. Cut out the pieces of plywood using a circular saw and a jigsaw.
  3. Test-fit them into the van individually and refine if necessary
  4. Place them into the van using a little adhesive to secure them to the installation (if you want - not strictly necessary)
  5. Tape them together to make them move more as a single piece (again, if you want)
  6. Use painter's/masking tape to protect the walls and then foam around the gap between the insulation/subfloor and the van walls to close up the air gap, and also to help hold both in place.

Flooring

The flooring itself - the main event! The thing you'll use! The thing you'll notice every imperfection on if you do it wrong!

Again, you have a few choices here - the ones I considered were:

Knowing how annoying vinyl sheets are to install perfectly and repair problems in, I opted for the luxury vinyl plank. It also helps that my local Home Depot has a very large selection of colours in stock so I could go browse and compare them directly.

Installation:

  1. Get templates for the left and right walls of the van.
  2. Check your living area's length and make sure the last plank segment will be more than 8 inches long. If not, you'll need to cut down the first plank in every other row to ensure that it will be (you want to stagger the joints by more than 8 inches)
  3. Start at the rear left corner, and lay the first row, using the templates and a jigsaw to cut out the notches for the wheel wells and pillars. It's best to do this one plank at a time, butting it up against the previous plank for reference.
  4. To join planks at the short end, use a deadblow hammer to tap them into each other.
  5. Use a table saw to cut the last plank to the right length to end just before the front cab. Remember this measurement!
  6. Now, do the center rows of flooring, staggering each one so the joins are offset. Do this by cutting the first or the last plank (on alternate rows) to that shorter measurement you took.
  7. To join planks to the previous row along the long edge, lever them in, and then use a scrap piece of flooring with the matching lip, clicked into that row, to tap it in. You need the scrap piece so you don't damage the "click lip" on the row you're tapping in.
  8. For the last, right-side row, use the templates and the jigsaw again, as well as the table saw to rip the planks to the slightly narrower width required. Use a prybar to push this against the previous row if needed, as you can't hit it with a hammer now.

My floor would have taken exactly 4 boxes of planks if I hadn't screwed up, but knowing how I built things, I bought 5 boxes and used exactly one plank of the fifth box, so I feel vindicated in that choice.

Edging

Finally, since you don't want the raw edge of your flooring showing near the doors, you need to add floor edging. This is relatively simple - pick the style you want, cut to length, glue/nail it on, and done.

I used one style of thicker edging (actually not quite intended for this, but it works) for the cargo area, and a sleeker one designed specifically for LVP for the cab-to-living-area transition. I haven't done the side door yet as it will need a little extra work once the cabinetry is in, but I'll use a similarly large edging there (like the cargo area) I imagine.

Installation:

  1. Measure where you want the edging to go
  2. Cut it down to length with an aluminium-rated blade on a chop saw or mitre saw
  3. Add adhesive on the inside and put it in place
  4. Nail it in if it has nail holes

And done! Not too bad, eh?

Conclusions

Well, that's flooring. It was fortunately not too difficult to do, reversible and re-doable if I had screwed it up, and I think the end result came out rather nicely.

One comment on sequencing - some people choose not to do flooring until later in the build, and I can see why. Once you've finished it, you need to cover it with a drop cloth while you do insulation and roof work, so it could be worth leaving it until after those - though I did value having a nice solid floor to stand on while doing those, rather than a noisy sheet metal floor!

You can see even more blog posts about the van build on its category page, and get updates via my YouTube channel, Twitter, or blog RSS.