Building the internal walls

Our van will have different ‘zones’ inside – a garage area for bike storage, a bed area, a living area and a driving area. One way to differentiate these is by changing the wall covering in each area.

The garage area will have rubber coin mats for both the floor and walls, up as far as the first run of l-track just under the windows.

The rubber coin mat will continue forward on the floor, but the front of the van will use bamboo for its walls.

Above the coin and bamboo, we’ll use strong Olefin fabric called “interweave” or church pew fabric. It’s very durable and stain resistant. This will continue on up to the ceiling.

The l-track gives us a 1/2″ flange to slide wall pieces behind. For the coin, that’s easy enough – 1/2″ ply for a sturdy wall, with coin glued on top. For the bamboo, which is 1/4″ three-ply strips, we just have to glue a 1/4″ plywood spacer behind it to reach the 1/2″ depth. For the fabric, things get a little more complex.

Above the first piece of l-track, the walls start to curve in quite quickly. 1/2″ thick plywood wouldn’t take the curve well. Instead, we’ll use a 1/4″ thick plywood base, with 1/8″ Low-E insulating foil/foam behind it, and 1/8″ closed cell foam glued in front as padding for the fabric to stick to. This sandwich compresses nicely to 1/2″ thick.

You can’t easily buy sheets of plywood that are over 8′ long. We needed to span a 9′ area. Some people use two panels to do this, but we didn’t want a gap. For that reason, we used 1/8″ plywood and constructed a staggered joint between the front and back panels. In fact, there was no real need to even use a complete sheet for the back panel. It just needed to exist at the edges and where things like the bed platform support rails will bolt through it.

The plywood wall panels are 1/8" doubled up with staggered seams to make a 1/4" thick panel.

Overall, it’s not clear that the weight saved by doing this was worth the extra hassle, but it was an interesting exercise to cut all the pieces out and glue them together. Hopefully the cut-out sections will also make it easier to bend this piece to shape along the wall.

We have varnished the back side of the plywood to give it some protection against moisture and humidity in the van. The front will have a water-resistant layer of foam glued solidly on.

Varnished wall panels

The top of the main panels is also held in place by l-track, then there’s a final, thinner panel up to the roof. Using the l-track meant we didn’t need visible fasteners along the wall edges. The ones we use at the top of the thin topmost panel and at the edges of the ceiling panels will be hidden by a moulding that also contains LED strip lights.

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