Purchasing · The Build · The Van

Van Build – The Walls pt. 1

The Executive Summary

I went with tongue and groove cedar boards and decided to mount them vertically, rather than horizontally. This was meant to give the interior and taller feel, rather than long and narrow. To accomplish this, we first needed to hang some furring strips that the visible wall boards could be adhered to.


The Details

With the walls now fully insulated, it meant I could begin putting up the wood panels that would make up the walls. I talked a lot about my choice to use cedar and the reasons why in my last post, so bounce back one if you’re interested in why cedar was my material of choice for the walls.

Before doing anything though, I needed a plan. I had been talking with friends for weeks leading up to this point; discussing what materials to use and how to install them. I had originally thought I was going to lay down boards horizontally that would run from the front to the back of the van. This seemed to be a common route from other builds that I had seen and, given the curves of the body of the van, seemed to make sense. At the last minute, however, a friend, who I had offered to assist with the project, suggested a new design. He had been looking at the other builds that I had shown him and he couldn’t shake the feeling that running the pattern of the boards horizontally made it feel like you were living in a barrel or a tunnel. It certainly made the space feel longer, but it didn’t do much for height. He suggested installing the wall boards vertically. This would give the small space a much taller feeling. This idea really resonated with me and so that’s what we set out to do.

I ended up purchasing some tongue and groove cedar boards from a local lumber yard. The wood looked really nice, but I didn’t realize just how expensive cedar was when I had selected it as my choice for the walls. It’s not the most expensive wood out there, but I was certainly taken back by the price. When I set out at the beginning of this project I thought to myself that I was going to do it cheaply and show how nice something so cheap could be. This flew right in the face of that ideal, but I had already set my heart on cedar and so into the van it went.


All this beautiful wood


Since we were using tongue and groove boards, we needed furring strips for the boards to be adhered to. Okay, so we didn’t need furring strips, but there were several reasons to use them. The first being that the walls of the van bow outwards and so the furring strips could be used to build up the midpoint of the wall to give the boards something to attach to, rather than just attaching them at the top and the bottom. The second is that by using furring strips, the wall boards could be nailed into the furring strips rather than having to be screwed into the frame. This allowed us to drive our nails through the tongue of the walls boards as we layed them so each consecutive board you lay covers the nails. This gives you a really nice looking finish when it’s done, rather than having to look at all of those ugly screws.

I had no idea what I was doing. Previous home improvement projects had told me that I was terrible at measuring and cutting wood. It seems like a simple thing to do, but it’s something I was pretty terrible at. I was also about to start putting holes in my new van. All of this terrified me and so I had to call a friend over for help. In hindsight, I think I asked him over for moral support more than anything. Sometimes that’s more important than the extra set of hand they provide. Armed with a confidence-boosting friend, we headed back up to Home Depot and picked up some pine boards for our furring strips. With as much as the cedar cost, pine felt cheap by comparison. We also picked up a box of screws with which to attach the boards to the van. If you’re taking on a project like this for yourself, remember that when buying screws, you need to consider the thickness of the material you’re screwing into along with the thickness of the material behind it. Screws too long will leave you with screw holes all through the side of your van; screws too short won’t provide enough stability to hold the weight of what you’re attaching.


With the furring strips in place, Boyd was really coming along. It was the first time that I was really able to step back and say “I was building something”. Not just something, but I was building my home. This was an immensely rewarding feeling. With so much being digital, much of the work we do in our lives exists only on our computers. This was something tangible. Work that you could see and feel. If you’re not working with your hands in some capacity in your life, I recommend you start.

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