Finally, after what seemed like forever, enough of the functional build was done to start making the project look more like a camper than a builder’s van. We decided on painted wooden cladding for the majority of the internal cosmetic finish, with grey 3 way stretch carpet for awkward areas (including doors). We started with the carpeting on the doors and around door openings, so the cladding would overlap it when finished.
Working with contact adhesive for the grey 3-way stretch carpet took a bit of getting used to, but it is quite easy once you get the hang of it, and with a bit of persuasion you can get it to stretch quite a long way with no wrinkles. I found some old wooden tools, designed for smoothing clay during pottery-making (that I already had), very helpful in getting the carpet to stretch and stick in tight, contoured areas.
The rear doors were quite straight forward, but I decided to do something a little more interesting inside the sliding side door. I had seen this storage solution on the Kiravans website, but it wouldn’t fit our model of Transit, and I baulked at the £200 price tag. I was sure I would make something similar. The solution was very simple and involved cutting slots into the plywood door card we removed from the door, and mounting carpet covered pockets on the back using staples. The pockets were made from vacuum formed meat trays and fruit containers rescued from the recycling bin! Once carpeted and mounted on the door, you would never know, and the storage is very handy for items that need to be easily accessible. Mr Wombat thought I was a bit mad, but had to admit the end result looks a lot better than the description of my vision beforehand 🙂
Once the carpeting was done, it was on to the cladding. In order to fix the final cladding finish, we had to mount battens at regular intervals along the sides and roof of the van to screw the cladding into. We managed to find 3m long cladding strips, so there was no need to join 2 pieces along the length, and the single length would be flexible enough to bend around the contours of the van (nothing is square in a Transit Custom). We wanted to minimise internal space lost due to the thickness of materials, so opted for the thinnest tongue and groove cladding we could find. 8mm thick pine was the thinnest we could find. All that was available locally, was quite fresh looking wood, with a lot of sap still in the knots. We thought this would cause discolouration of the paint over time, but I guess on the plus side this made the lengths even more flexible. We opted to use a knot sealer, before an undercoat, before the final off-white paint finish. In all, I think it was 7 coats! Luckily we did it in the summer, and the weather was fine, so each coat dried fairly quickly.
We started fixing the cladding in the middle of the ceiling and worked outwards and down the sides. Having spent A LOT of time assembling the LED ‘star’ lighting looms, we now had to spend time drilling holes through the cladding and inserting each LED individually as we fixed the boards to the inside of the van. As I had thought it would be nice to have 2 different sizes of LEDs (5mm & 2mm), we had to drill the right size holes in the right places to give a random, constellation like effect. I think it has worked really well, but it was a lot of effort.
As well as the small LEDs in the ceiling at the back of the van, we also fitted 7 led spot lights at the front, where the kitchen will go. These are cheap 12v lights intended to go under fitted kitchen wall units. One in the middle is wired to the original van electric circuit, which comes on when the door opens, and turns off a minute or so after the door closes. The other 6 are on a separate circuit controlled by one of the 2 switches we also mounted in the cladding next to the sliding door (the second controls the star lights, so that you don’t have to have all the lights on at the same time). For further lighting adaptability, we also mounted 2 flexible goose neck reading lights either side of the van at the back. They work well for either reading in bed, or on the sofa depending which mode the van is in, or can be bend out of the way altogether. They have integrated switches, so can be turned on and off independently from all other lights and can be angled to suit a number of tasks.
As well as the lights and switches, we also mounted a double plug socket in the cladding at a height which would be above the worktop once fitted. These sockets are on the 24v circuit, which only operates when the van is hooked up to the mains.