Campervan conversions on a budget using PVC wall panels

Campervan conversions on a budget using PVC wall panels

Apr 1, '24

Van living has always been a popular movement, but even more so in recent years as the ‘vanlife trend’ caters perfectly for remote workers, adventurers, and outdoor enthusiasts looking to spend more time on the road. With more and more people choosing to live in a van full-time or convert a small camper for extended trips, there are so many possibilities when it comes to interior design. 

Modern van conversions can feature luxury bathrooms, modern kitchens, and cosy bedrooms all in one small space. If you’re looking to turn your camper into a multi-functional space, you’ll need the right materials that provide functionality as well as contemporary style. Keep reading as we discuss how you can transform your camper on a budget by using PVC panels, providing you with decor inspiration and useful tips to see you through the planning stages.

Where to start when converting a van

Before you start purchasing materials, you need to know exactly what you want in your camper and what style you’re going for. For example, do you just want an insulated sleeping area for weekend trips or will you be living in your camper full-time and require more facilities such as a bathroom and kitchen space? In terms of style, do you prefer a clean and luxurious aesthetic or do you want something rustic and homely?

Measuring and mocking up your campervan conversion design will be essential to ensuring success. This will help you figure out a budget, a preferred style, what your wants and needs are and whether you’ll have space for them or whether you’ll need to compromise. Once you have all of these factors considered, you can start to look at materials for your campervan carpentry project.

To help you with your design, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many people or pets will be living or travelling in the van?
  • Do you need a workspace? This is especially important if you work remotely or are a digital nomad.
  • Will you need walkable space inside the van?
  • How much storage will you need? Will you need additional storage for large items like bikes or ski gear?
  • Do you want windows or are you happy to open the van doors for ventilation and light when needed?
  • How lightweight do you ideally want the van to be?
  • Do you need a kitchen or a private bathroom?

Once you’ve mocked up your design, you should also look at what tools you’ll need to complete the project or whether you’re going to outsource help from companies that specialise in conversion. It might be worth seeing which jobs you’ll feel comfortable doing yourself or having a friend or family member help with, and which ones you’d prefer a professional to complete. This can help you free up some extra budget for other furnishings or a contingency budget.

How much does it cost to convert a van?

Cost is one of the most important considerations when converting a campervan. However, there is no definitive answer when it comes to this question. On average, you can expect a small van conversion to be in the range of £1000-£5000, whereas larger van conversions can cost an average of anywhere between £5,000 - £20,000. Some luxury options may cost even more than this. 

Despite this sounding costly, there are ways that you can help to keep your expenditure down, within budget and still achieve a practical camper that reflects your style and needs. This includes using recycled materials where possible, choosing affordable, functional materials, and doing the labour yourself if you have the skills and knowledge to do this safely and efficiently.

Campervan cladding ideas

There are plenty of options to choose from when deciding on campervan cladding, from using materials such as plywood and MDF to auto carpets and PVC. Depending on the size and shape of your van, you can use a mix of materials or stick to just one. This is also where aesthetics come into play, as you can pick materials that will work with your interior design scheme. To give you some inspiration, we’ve offered a breakdown of the two most common cladding materials alongside some PVC panelling ideas to help you build a functional and stylish interior.

What materials are best?

When it comes to campervan lining, the most common option is to use light plywood such as Luan. This is because the material is relatively lightweight, easy to work with, affordable, and offers a good amount of insulation. Many people also like to replicate the look of a cosy wood cabin inside their camper. However, it does present some disadvantages as the finish can vary resulting in an uneven surface, it isn’t particularly breathable which may make it unsuitable for certain parts of the campervan and it can be susceptible to moisture or water which may damage the material. Additionally, it may not be the best option if you don’t want a wooden finish or bohemian aesthetic for the interior of your van.

As an alternative to plywood, PVC campervan wall panels can offer numerous benefits whilst also allowing more versatility in terms of interior design. One benefit of PVC panels is their smooth finish. They don’t have pores or holes which could gather dust and dirt, meaning PVC panels have a straightforward cleaning process. They are also easy to install, lightweight and resistant to mould and water, making them a hygienic option for campervan wall cladding.

These low-maintenance panels are ideal if you will be leaving the camper for extended periods and don’t want to worry about the build-up of dirt or mould. They’re also suited to full-time van living as you’ll no longer need to worry about condensation and water retention when cooking or showering. Furthermore, PVC panels will be much easier to clean after muddy adventures, as they can easily be wiped down. 

Acoustic slat panels

Van walls are thin and can let sound pass through easily. Furnishing your campervan will help to eliminate this, but if you have a large camper or caravan you could benefit from using acoustic slat panels to help absorb some of the sound. Wooden slat panels are not suitable for areas where they would be exposed to water, however they are perfect for providing extra insulation and soundproofing in areas such as the living space where you plan to work, or around the bed.. These slat panels will also give a contemporary and sleek look alongside practical functionality. And for additional, space saving functionality that would add a touch of luxury to your home on the road, our slat panel lighting kits insert seamlessly into the panel grooves to light up your space without the need for bulky light fittings.

Strivo Lume | 2 Strip LED Light Kit

Alternatively, if you don’t have the space for acoustic panels you could opt for upholstered panels to help diffuse sound whilst adding a luxurious and homely touch to your campervan interior. These will need to be kept away from areas with high humidity such as bathrooms or cooking spaces so they could be better suited to vans that are used as sleeping spaces only.

Vox Vilo Upholstered Panel in Bottle Green

Campervan ceiling panels

In vans of any size, PVC panels can help to bring the whole project together whilst providing a remarkably affordable, effective, lightweight and hygienic lining solution. PVC ceiling panels are easy to install as they have an efficient tongue and groove interlocking system, they are resistant to mould and are 100% waterproof as well as durable, ideal for those living full-time in a multifunctional campervan with amenities such as kitchen and shower.

Gloss White V Groove Ceiling Panels

If you prefer to create a natural wood-effect look throughout your campervan but aren’t keen on using wooden cladding you could opt for a textured effect panel such as the White Ash Wood Effect PVC Panel which provides a sleek and refined look with all the benefits of PVC and the rustic aesthetic of wood.

White Ash Wood Effect PVC Panel

Textured effect panels for interior campervan conversion

If you’re on a budget and want to stand out from the crowd, PVC panels are a great way to create your dream design scheme in your van without using heavy or impractical materials. For example, whilst wood effect panels can recreate the traditional nature of vanlife style, brick or stone effect panels can offer something more unique. They can be used to create focal points, exciting splashbacks, or as a way to separate a private bathroom from the rest of the van.

Panels such as the Vox Vilo Blue Brick Effect are the perfect choice for those looking to add a splash of colour, and the clever 3D effect pattern gives the illusion of texture yet the panels remain flat which ensures they are easy to keep clean and won’t take up any more valuable space than needed.

Alternatively, if you like the exposed brickwork look reminiscent of relaxed European cityscapes, the Vox Motivo Modern 3D Red Brick allows you to incorporate an exciting design scheme that strays away from the common wood-effect themes seen in many campervans.

Vox Motivo Modern 3D Red Brick

When it comes to using PVC panelling for your campervan conversion, the options really are quite limitless. With plenty of styles available, there’s something for everyone. Another of our favourite cladding ideas is to use patterned panels such as the Dumawall Plus Vinta to create a visually appealing splashback or bathroom feature wall. Using panels such as these can easily help you create a refined and high-end look for your van, even on a smaller budget.

Dumawall Plus Vinta

Of course, if you prefer to stick to the rustic wooden look we offer a wide range of wood-effect panels. Options such as the Vox Motivo Light Wood panels from our wood grain PVC panels collection are designed with 3D printing technology, enabling a more realistic appearance. Easy to clean and 100% waterproof, these panels are the ideal choice for use in confined spaces where everything is close together and real wood isn’t practical, such as in van conversions.

Small van conversion ideas

If you’ve got a smaller campervan and are worried about how PVC panels will fit or want to use a mix of materials, there are still plenty of options available. One of our favourite ways to instantly transform a small camper is to use panels to create feature walls. Our Vox Vilo Vintage Brick Wall Panels replicate the appearance of a real vintage brick wall but they are easy to clean and more lightweight. Adopting a stylish rustic charm, this functional and high-quality alternative to traditional brick is an excellent way to create visual intrigue in a small campervan. 

Vox Vilo Vintage Brick

If you’re still struggling with what to do with a small space, and PVC wall panels aren’t going to be a viable option, you could use SPC flooring. Not only does this ensure easy maintenance and functional flooring, but this also means you have more style choices other than wood or wood texture to enhance visual appeal. Something with a bold pattern such as the Pittenweem Victorian Tile can be used throughout your van floor or used on heightened floors to highlight a change in levels.

Pittenweem Victorian Tile SPC Flooring

Our luxury vinyl flooring provides a warm, comfortable underfoot surface that also helps to absorb and diffuse sound. Being easy to maintain and clean makes the flooring suitable for pets who may be staying in the van, and ideal for those venturing to wetter or muddier climates. The PU protective coating has built-in antibacterial properties too, making it a more hygienic option.

Find campervan and caravan interior ideas at The Panel Company

Whether you’re in the preliminary planning stages or you’ve already acquired a campervan, The Panel Company can help you get your mobile home looking up to scratch in no time.  We stock an impressive range of contemporary and classic panels that will look great and function well in any campervan. Explore our range of sleek and durable PVC wall panels, ceiling panels and LVT flooring to create your dream camper.

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