I distinctly remember being overly excited about framing our Dodge Sprinter Campervan. Why? Well, that’s simple. It was the first time that it started to look like the tiny home on wheels we were dreaming about. The rust control, mechanical fixes, and cleaning WERE all necessary- but somehow not quite as satisfying. In this post we will go over everything you need to know about DIY van framing to maximize space in your campervan!
It is SUPER important to take care of any rust, holes, or other issues with the body of the van before you begin framing. Although it can seem tedious for areas that you are going to be covering up, it will save you a world of trouble in the future.
We’ve seen multiple van builds that have had to be completely disassembled and redone because of rust and water damage. Don’t let that be you!
Because of the age of these T1N Sprinters(1995-2006), rust is pretty much inevitable. Triple-check that you have treated ALL the rust before you get started on your conversion. If you just cover it up and don’t properly treat it, you will be in serious trouble down the road.
The rust accumulation can vary greatly depending on location and maintenance. Some common places for rust in a Dodge Sprinter include:
- Rear Doors and Windows
- Roof Seams
- The Floor (depending on what it’s been used for)
- The Driver and Passenger Side Kick Panel
There are several products and methods out there you can use for rust control. These range from POR15 to a Fiberglass filling if the rust has created a hole. The one place you don’t want to see rust is on the actual frame of the vehicle. If that is the case, it may be difficult and very expensive to fix.
Once all of your rust is treated and you’ve installed any windows or fans you’d like (make sure to seal these well!), you can move on to framing.
There are several ways to do this, but after hours of research and planning, we would politely argue (we are Canadian, after all) that we have found the best method. Here’s why.
We actually decided to frame inside the metal ribs of the van instead of securing the framing on top of them. This gave us a significant amount of extra living space on the walls and the ceiling. If we were to frame on top of the metal, we’d be losing a couple of inches here, a couple of inches there, and that all adds up! Especially in a 6X14 foot box😉
Now, I’ll be straight up with you. This is not something we saw a lot of online or from other van builds. However, when there’s a limited amount of space, to begin with, you have to be willing to work a little outside the box. By doing this you can maximize your space and take your van to the next level.
Materials you`ll need:
- 2″ Sheet metal Screws
- 2″ Wood Screws
- Drill Bits
The purpose of framing the inside of your campervan is to ensure that your walls and ceiling are structurally solid. It also gives you a great place to fasten your wall panels. Securing these panels (or 1x4s if that’s your jam) to the metal ribs isn’t ideal because it weakens the structure, creates more holes where rust can develop, and is more difficult to drill into.
We did bolt things like the bedframe and the kitchen cabinets directly to the metal frame of the van using rivet insert bolts. Our reasoning for this was a) We wanted these things to be extremely secure and b) it was far fewer holes than the wall panels.
In our van, the bottom half of the walls were fairly well framed out with the metal ribs so we didn’t add much there. We used 2x4s to frame out the upper walls and 2x2s for framing the ceiling. They were attached by drilling holes into the metal ribs and then securing them in place with sheet metal screws.