Contact adhesive: foam to wall panels

I realized I’ve never sprayed with a proper spray gun before, only with rattle cans. I’ve also never worn a NIOSH organic vapor mask before. Wow. What a difference!

First time using a spray gun

We used DAP Weldwood HHR Landau Top contact adhesive. It’s pretty powerful stuff. I bought a cheap spray gun along with the adhesive. It worked fine with our 4 gallon air compressor. Once you get the pressure dialed, it works really well to create the “web” of glue that you want on the surfaces. Of course, we missed the 80 degree days of September so we had to spray inside the garage to make sure the glue had a chance to flash off.

That meant wearing respirator masks to protect us from the vapors. I haven’t used a NIOSH-approved mask before, and now I think I’ll wear one even if I’m just spraying a small item with a rattle can. It wasn’t until I took the mask off outside the garage that I realized how much the whole place stank of the adhesive. Through the mask, I was just breathing “fresh” air.

It said to apply pressure to help it adhere...

The instructions said to “apply pressure” to the items after they had been joined. We have a 4″ roller that worked well for the smaller panels, but it would have taken all day to roll the larger ones, so we improvised.

Update: If you don’t want to spend the money on a full spray gun kit, 3M 90 adhesive works really well for the same job. We used it for a couple of smaller panels that we did later on. Just be sure to start spraying before you hit the fabric, and keep the spray can moving. If you get too much adhesive in one place, it’ll soak through and cause dark spots on the fabric.

24 Replies to “Contact adhesive: foam to wall panels”

  1. Your website is awesome! Thanks for sharing all your ideas. Can you tell me how many yards of fabric you ended up using for the interior panels?


    1. Thanks Evan. We bought 15 yards of fabric. That was sufficient for the ceiling from behind the cab to the rear doors, and the upper walls from behind the C pillar (back of the sliding door) to the D pillar (rear doors) on a 170 wheelbase van. It also gave us enough to panel above the driver side window opposite the sliding door and the two small top inserts in the rear doors. We had some 8″ strips left over that we used for the coving strips that cover the corners between wall and ceiling. It was only just enough. We did not cover the panels in the sliding door.

      I really suggest you calculate your amounts based on the areas you want to cover, plus enough for a 2″ fold over to the back of the board on each edge. We used just about a gallon of the DAP HHR adhesive by the time we were done. It would have taken a LOT of cans of 3M 90 adhesive. I wouldn’t skimp on the adhesive though because it has to stand up to some high temperatures and rough treatment.

      If you order fabric for this job, and if you’ve been as careful planning how to get exactly what you need from the quantity, be sure that they send you a single piece rather than the correct length made up of more than one piece. That happened to us and the cut between the pieces was in a position that made it impossible for us to get all the shapes we needed.

      Also remember that fabric has a selvedge edge. That means that one or both of the edges will be woven differently. Our fabric had about a 1″ selvedge on one side, and a minimal one on the other side. It was fine to fold back over behind the panels and glue up, but it would have looked weird to see it on the front side.

      We bought comparatively expensive fabric from Kovi via Amazon. It doesn’t look like Kovi sell that type of fabric there any more. I would be tempted to use the stuff that Perfect Fit sell instead. Much cheaper, similar quality.

      1. Thanks for the additional info. I had calculated a requirement of 10.5 yds and figured I would order 15 for my 144, I may order a little more than that as I had hoped to do the sliding door as well and my van has no side windows. Like I said in my original post, this website is great and has been a huge help, thanks so much!


  2. @dieselfumes

    Did you use 1/4″ or 1/8″ panels for your walls? I’ve read a few other threads that the 1/4″ doesn’t take the curve as well.

    I was guessing maybe 1/8″ plywood panels, 1/8″ foam, then the fabric. What are your thoughts on this?


    1. Hey PJ,

      We used 1/8″ plywood, but we doubled it up in some areas because we needed a 1/4″ thickness to sit behind the l-track we installed, and because we wanted 108″ long panels, and most plywood comes in 96″ lengths. You can see an image of that in this thread. If you don’t have those concerns, I’d suggest that 1/8″ plywood behind foam and fabric would be just fine.

      1/8″ is obviously also much lighter than 1/4″.

      1. Hi dieselfumes,

        I am using 1/8 luan plywood as well but the ceiling panels are not perfectly aligned and they buckle at the joints. I used individual L-track fittings just like you. Did you double up at the seams? Thanks much,


        1. Hmmm, that sounds wrong. We just used plain 1/8″ ply. It is relatively floppy, but the L-track fittings keep it stiff enough.

          As far as I know, there isn’t a “strong” and a “weak” orientation for the Luan ply, so it’s unlikely that you just have it 90 degrees out of alignment from how we laid ours. I really can’t think of a reason why ours would have worked and yours has not.

          We have 1/8″ ply, 1/8″ foam, then interweave style fabric. I can push up on the panels between the cross-beams of the van and they flex, but they don’t have any buckling.

          I imagine if you glued some cross-braces on to the back side of the panels, that would give you a lot more strength. Just another layer of 1/8″ ply strips should be sufficient.

          I’m afraid I really don’t have any other suggestions for you. If you work out what’s going on, let me know.

  3. Hey guys. Just wondering where you purchased your 1/8′ closed cell foam from and in what size? Thanks a ton!

  4. Hey guys, I’m researching my wall/celine construction and wondered if you ever considered doing exposed wood panels (painted or stained) on these areas? Most professional conversions seem to do what you did but as mobile kitchen and ski hut I am concerned the extra fabric will absorb moisture and smells? Thanks in advance!


    1. John, the Olefin fabric seems to do pretty well not absorbing moisture and smells. The foam is closed cell, so that’s not absorbing anything either. We cook outside when we can. Even when we’re cooking inside, with the ceiling fan running most of the moisture gets sucked out of the van anyway. The fabric and foam also acts as an extra sound damping layer.

      Having said that, if you look on the Sprinter forum you’ll find several builds where they used either exposed wood panels or wooden boards. It can create a really nice look. Using wooden boards can get heavy though.

  5. Can you confirm that you trimmed the foam flush with the panel edge vs wrapping to the backside like you did the fabric?

    Thanks a bunch for all the info.

    1. Yes, that’s exactly what we did. We found that the fabric formed a smooth enough edge without wrapping the foam around and we didn’t want the extra thickness at those points.

      Good luck with your wall panels!

  6. Diesel,
    How did you guys tie your front panels and ceiling into the factory cab headliner? We are just getting started on insulation and after removing the full rear headliner, I am having a hard time figuring out how I’m going to make that front trasition look good. Thanks again as your blog has been a very valuable resource throughout our planning stage

    1. Casey, we ran our fabric-covered plywood underneath the factory cab headliner. Even though we left cut-outs in the right place, that ended up meaning that the cab headliner doesn’t clip into the holes in the metal ceiling rib any more, so it has a slight gap. It’s annoyed us ever since we installed it. I think the only solution is to add some kind of external bolt to hold the rear edge of the factory cab headliner up against the ceiling. Perhaps we’ll add a couple of single point l-track mounts like we did further back in the van to hold the rest of our ceiling up.

      To close off the gap at the sides, we cut a piece of plywood to the right shape and covered it in wall fabric. We made a template for that so you don’t have to do all the tracing yourself. We never actually filled in the driver’s side hole because we’re still planning to put a cabinet up on the wall that would cover that area. Another item on the list of things to do.

  7. What’s the process you used to upholster? Do you spray glue on the wood, attach foam, then spray foam and attach upholstery? Then flip and spray underside of fabric overhang to wrap around and attach to the back of the panel? Any staples? Thanks.

    1. Nick, that’s pretty much the process, except we used contact adhesive so you spray both surfaces each time. Spray wood and foam, leave until tacky, attach. Spray foam and fabric, leave until tacky, attach and apply pressure. Flip panel over onto clean surface. Trim fabric to about 1″ from edge of wood, spray edges of back side of wood, leave to tack, fold over and attach.

      We didn’t use staples. The contact adhesive holds really well.

  8. Thanks for the advice. I started upholstering: I’m getting a nice result and it’s really fun. The one thing I can’t believe is that you didn’t even use 1 gal of the adhesive! I went through 1 gal for my ceiling and slider panels.

    1. Nick, we were pretty light on the adhesive spray because we didn’t want it to bleed through the fabric. I can imagine if you sprayed even just a little heavier than we did, you’d easily get through a gallon of adhesive. Glad the results are looking good for you though!

  9. Just finished wall panels and installed them. I’m about to remove them for the foam/fabric step. How much of a gap did you plan on between the panels once covered in fabric? Will 1/4″ be too much, or should I plan on 1/8″?

    Getting close to the finish line, I can smell it. Thanks again for your write-up. Time to order 8020 for the cabinets.

    1. Timothy, I think we had a gap of about 1/8″ or maybe slightly smaller between the wooden panels before we covered them. We trimmed the foam flush with the edges of the wood after it was glued on. Only the fabric wraps around the wood to the back side of the panels. So you only have to allow for two thicknesses of fabric in that gap, rather than the fabric and the foam.

      Getting the panels made is a big step. Getting them covered in fabric makes a massive difference to how the van sounds and feels inside. Have fun with the process, and take your time with it.

  10. Hey there,

    I love your end result on the upholstery! What settings did you have on your sprayer/air compressor? I have a cheap sprayer from Harbor freight I plan on using with a 6 gallon air compressor.

    1. Thanks Travis! We used a relatively cheap sprayer too, and a smaller air compressor than yours. We adjusted the sprayer tip to give the type of coverage we wanted (around 12″ if I recall) and the air pressure to push the glue through at a speed where it stayed a little stringy rather than completely aerosol-ing. The end result was that the sprayer laid down almost a zig-zag pattern of glue. Hard to describe, but you’ll know when you see it.

      Because sprayers vary so much, there’s no way I can just say “two turns out, and 80 PSI” – make sure you have some spare cardboard that you can practice on. It’s worth wasting a little glue in order to get the spray pattern right. Stay smooth in your movements, and spray past your panels and fabric at each end to ensure you get full coverage.

      It’s going to stink. You absolutely NEED a respirator, and your clothes and the area where you spray are going to smell for a while.

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