How To CUSTOMIZE ANY Car Interior!
How to Customize the Interior of Your Van
Painting, insulation, and furniture can turn a standard utility van into a second home. New designs can also bring outdated conversion vans into the twentieth century. Converted vans offer better fuel mileage and easier highway driving than old-fashioned camper-trailers, and with the DIY know-how you can truly make them your own.
Painting Inside Your Van
Prepare your van for painting.Before you paint, be sure to remove or cover up anything that you don’t want to get paint on. Remove all fixtures including floor mats, furniture, and any removable shelving. Items that can’t be removed—such as carpeting and door handles—should be taped over or covered in newspaper so that you don’t accidentally paint them too.
- Completely clean the surface you are going to paint. Remove all layers of dust, rust or grime that may have accumulated before you paint. Failing to do so will cause visible imperfections in your final paint job.
Use anti-rust paint on metal walls.Always paint in a well ventilated area with lots of light. When customizing a standard utility van with metal walls, you will need two layers of paint:
- Anti-rust paint. Anti-rust paint is available in spray-on or liquid form. The liquid form comes in two parts that must be mixed and applied with a brush. Ask an employee of your local home improvement store which is best for you.
- Spray-on metal paint in the colour of your choice.
Cover old vinyl wallpaper if you can't take it down.Older conversion vans from the 1970s often came with vinyl wallpaper interiors that are as difficult to remove as they are ugly to look at. If you don’t feel up to taking it off entirely, you can paint over it.
- Begin with an oil based primer. Water-based primers will loosen the paper from the wall, potentially causing it to sag or bubble.
- After the primer dries, apply another coat if it doesn’t completely cover the whole surface.
- When the primer has dried, paint in the colour of your choice. You may use water based paint for your final coat as long as the primer covers everything underneath it.
Repaint your cupboards to add colour.If your van already has a kitchen/storage inside, you can spruce it up by repainting all those surfaces. Before you paint:
- Remove all cupboard doors and drawers. You will see the best results if you paint these parts individually. Make sure you label them so you know where to put them back when you’re done.
- Remove hinges and handles. This will keep you from getting paint on your hardware accidentally. If you are considering painting the hardware along with the wood—don’t—the paint will quickly chip off.
- Sand wood surfaces and wipe off the dust before painting.
Insulating Your Van
Start with a layer of radiant insulation.Radiant insulation is reflective—that is, heat bounces off it—so that thermal heat you generate inside stays locked in, while outside the sun’s rays bounce off. This will keep your van warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
- Cut the insulation to fit your wall and ceiling.
- Spray a heavy-duty adhesive to the wall and to the back of your insulation.
- Firmly press insulation to the wall/ceiling and hold it until it dries.
Cover the windows with rigid foam paneling.Many utility vans have “pop-out” windows which swing out rather than roll down. Covering them is a good way to insulate your vehicle—if you don’t mind the aesthetic.
- Cut the foam paneling slightly larger than the space it is meant to fill.
- Squeeze the panel into the window frame. It should compress around the edges for a snug fit.
- Secure it along the edges with installation tape.
Cover the bottom half of your walls in fibreglass insulation.If your van has no windows, you can use this insulation to cover the walls from top to bottom.
- Wearing gloves, cut pieces of fibreglass insulation to fit your wall.
- Stuff the fibreglass into green garbage bags, and seal them with installation tape. This keeps moisture out of your insulation and prevents mold.
- Attach the garbage bags to the walls with installation tape around the perimeter.
Spray foam in cracks and crevices.Spray-able foam will fill up corners that other types of insulation can’t fit into, and can be bought in a standard “gap and crack filler” variety. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions.
- Do not spray foam in cold weather. Cold prevents the foam from setting properly, and you may find it oozing out of the cracks when it gets warm.
- Foam expands when you spray it and can be unpredictable. If you are filling an especially large gap, only fill it 1/3rd of the way at first. Wait until it dries, then spray the next third, and so on. This will prevent it from expanding too much and pushing out on its surroundings.
- After its dried, use a utility knife to cut away excess foam.
Upholstering Your Interior
Attach studs to the walls of your van before you insulate.If you are converting a utility van with metal walls, you will need to glue studs to those walls so you have something to mount new paneling on.
- Cut 2 inches (5.1 cm) x 2 inches (5.1 cm) wood studs the height of your wall.
- Glue the studs to wall of your van just inside of where your upholstered paneling will go.
- Screw the paneling into the studs, after it has been upholstered. Cover the screws with screwcaps.
Make a template of the area you wish to upholster.This template will function as a pattern when it comes time to cut out the plywood that you will attach your upholstery to, so it is important to cut and measure very carefully. To make a template:
- Tape a large sheet of paper to the wall or floor.
- Cut out the shape of the area you wish to cover.
Cut plywood according to the template.Be very careful when using a saw--you may wish to wear goggles to protect your eyes from sawdust. Be sure to double check your measurements, or you may have to repeat this step.
- Tape your template to a sheet of plywood.
- Using a saw, cut the plywood into the shape of the template.
- Be sure to use thin plywood that can bend to the curvature of your walls.
Cover the plywood with bunting.A layer of felt bunting acts as a buffer between the hard plywood and soft upholstery. Bunting can be bought at any home improvement or furniture repair store.
- Roll out the bunting overtop the plywood.
- Cut the bunting so that it is exactly the size and shape of the wood it is going to cover.
- Glue the bunting and wood together with upholstery adhesive.
Cut out upholstery.Use the plywood as a pattern, and cut your upholstery just larger than each piece of wood.
- Leaving at least 3 inches of fabric around the sides will allow you to stretch the upholstery and glue it to the back of the plywood.
Glue the upholstery to the plywood.Lay the upholstery down, with the paneling on top of it. The “front” of the upholstery should be facing down. The blank side of the plywood should be facing up. Spray the exposed edges of the fabric, and the perimeter of the plywood with upholstery glue.
- Pull the fabric taught, and fold it over the edge of the plywood. Press down with a drywall knife to ensure the glue dries flat.
Furnishing Your Van
Put pneumatic struts under your bed.If you want to be able to sleep while the van is in motion, mount your bed on 100 pounds (45 kg) pneumatic struts. These mechanisms absorb the bumps and vibrations of driving, so that it feels like you’re sleeping on water and not on the road.
- These struts can be found most easily online, but it is safer to order them from a home improvement store, the better to know what you’re getting.
Alter a standard futon if you can’t afford a custom built one.Most mattresses are too big to fit in a van. If you can’t afford a custom built one, you can alter a standard futon mattress to fit:
- Open the cover of your futon mattress and pull back the cushioning until you reach the springs.
- Using heavy duty wire clippers, clip the springs to the desired length.
- Replace the cushioning and sew the cover closed.
Reupholster your seats.If the seats in your van are looking a bit worn, you can recover them to suit the van’s new look. This is a tough job, best left to a professional.
Choose furniture that provides storage.A van can get cramped, especially one that doubles as a second home. Fortunately, you can buy and build furniture with built in storage potential. Some examples include:
- Building a garbage can that doubles as a stool.
- Installing drawers under your bed.
- Different paints have different brush, storage, and dry-time needs. Check with an employee of your local home improvement store to make sure you're buying the right kind.
- It is a good idea to wear gloves while doing any hands on work. These gloves may protect you from splinters, and keep your hands free of paint that can be difficult to wash off.
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