DIY Promaster Camper Conversion Guide – Part II

best diy promaster campervan conversion guide

In Part I of the DIY Promaster Camper Conversion Guide we covered how to come up with a camper van layout and how to install windows, fan, insulation, and electrical.

In Part II of this conversion guide, we will cover how to do everything that’s actually seen: how to build an awesome bed and kitchen area, storage, finishing the walls and ceiling, and a look at the accessories we added in to make our life on the road a bit more comfortable.

 

how to convert promaster van into a campervan

 

For the van’s interior, we wanted to create a simple, clean look with light colored cabinets and walls and a contrasting dark wood ceiling, countertop, and floor. On the outside, we wanted to make it as capable as possible to take on any road conditions we might encounter during our trip to South America.

 

Promaster Camper Conversion Guide – Part II

1. Ceiling Paneling
2. Floors
3. Bed Frame
4. Kitchen
5. Finishing Touches
6. Van Conversion Cost

 

1. Ceiling Paneling

The first part of our homemade campervan build was to install the ceiling slats. We wanted the slats to be thin to give us as much headspace as possible and in dark walnut color to provide some awesome contrast between the slats and the white insolation behind it.

 

home made camper van ceiling

 

The oak paneling that is typically sold at the stores is thick so we decided to make our own. We used 1/8” 4×8 wood paneling sheets from Home Depot and we cut them into 2” wide strips.

 

diy campervan conversion dark walnut ceiling

 

We stained these strips in this amazing dark walnut stain to give them a finished look.

 

insulation promaster campervan conversion

 

We placed the strips about a half-inch apart and attached them to our Promaster roof’s crossbeams with stainless steel screws.

 

lights and wiring promaster ceiling installation

 

Once the roof paneling was done we put these 12V LED puck lights over the slats and light switches to control them in the walls.

 

2. Floors

We did floors a bit different than most people in their DIY campervan conversions. We wanted a modern wood floor but didn’t want to make it too thick and eliminate our much-needed headspace. Instead of placing plywood down to level everything first, we decided to go with wide plank laminate flooring because it’s very thin and easy to install by snapping the pieces into place.

 

floor insulation promaster campervan conversion

 

To level the floor, we instead cut small strips of ¼” insulation and put them into the floor grooves to keep the laminate flooring from buckling and warping when standing on it.

 

promaster van conversion floor insulation

 

After the insulation was secured down with tape to prevent it from moving around, we used this underlayment noise barrier to provide additional insulation and noise reduction.

 

diy promaster campervan laminate light wood floor

 

We went with a laminate wood flooring that had a natural wood look and only put it in the areas that would be seen, otherwise we would have needed another box of flooring that would have mostly gone to waste.

 

campervan light laminate wood floor

 

After the laminate flooring was done we put an aluminum bar on the doorstep to prevent it from breaking as we step in and out of the van.

All in all, the flooring was by far the easiest and fastest part of the whole build.

 

3. Bed Frame

Creating a custom bed frame was pretty straightforward but we did have a few requirements that needed extra modifications.

We travel with our cat so we needed to create a litter box area in the back as well as a catwalk to access it from the front that would also double as a hiding area. We also wanted a permanent bed with as much storage as possible underneath.

 

promaster campervan bed ideas

 

We planned on using half of the storage area under the bed for clothes, our camera gear, and other essentials, so we wanted it to be accessible from the inside the van.

 

diy promaster campervan storage under bed

 

The back half would be accessible from the rear doors and would be used to store our hiking gear, water tanks, litter box, and house batteries.

 

homemade promaster campervan conversion

 

We started by creating the main frame from 2×3’s. We used a similar setup in our Honda Element conversion project and it held up great so we knew it would definitely be strong enough but not as bulky as 2×4’s.

 

used promaster campervan conversion

 

We used wooden slats to make most of the bed top but used plywood on hinges to make access doors to the catwalk on the left and to our hamper on the back right. We also used 3/8” plywood to create a shelf inside the closet.

The front of the cabinet frame was finished off with smooth 1” pine boards.

 

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We created some simple doors for the closet out of ½” birch plywood and used self-closing hinges and heavy duty door magnets to keep everything closed while driving. We painted the frame and the doors white to give it a simple, clean finish.

All the way on the front right, just in front of the wheel well, we created a hard-to-find sliding door where we will hide our drone in case of a break-in.

 

installing deep cycle batteries promaster campervan

 

In the back, we placed the two house batteries against the dividing plywood and used ½” plywood to make an enclosed battery compartment. We vented the batteries to the outside by placing a ½” plastic hose through a hole we drilled right below the tail lights.

At this point, we also installed the fuse block and solar charge controller in the back and finished up hooking up the electrical we ran in Part I.

 

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The finished bed dimensions came out to be 74” across and 54” wide. We used this full size 6” memory foam mattress and it fit perfectly. If we were any taller, we would have installed less insulation on the sides (we used a total of 1.5 inches on each wall) and made the space as much as 77” wide.

 

4. Kitchen

For the campervan kitchen area, we had a few requirements to improve our long-term traveling and encourage us to cook as much as possible. Some of our must-have requirements were a small built-in fridge to store fresh food, a sink with running water, and a permanent propane stove top.

 

promaster campervan diy bed build

 

We bought a pre-built kitchen cabinet from Habitat For Humanity’s Restore for $10 and built everything around that base. The cabinet already came with doors and drawers and just needed a fresh coat of paint along with a few small modifications to fit the fridge.

 

installing beehive backsplash van conversion

 

Before installing any of the kitchen cabinets in our Promaster camper van we created a hexagon pattern backsplash that would go behind the counter. We used 3/8” wood to create the backsplash and covered it with this hexagon backsplash sticker instead of using ceramic tile. The sticker looks just like the real ceramic counterpart but much easier to install and no chances of breaking it when driving over rough roads.

 

campervan kitchen beehive backsplash

 

The backsplash was the perfect place to put a few charging outlets, a voltmeter to keep an eye on the battery voltage, and an on-off switch for the water pump. Once the backsplash was installed, we started working on the kitchen countertop that would go on top of it.

 

kitchen counter installation promaster camper van

 

We bought a beautiful dark wood butcher block countertop from the clearance section at Ikea for $70 to go on top of the cabinets.

 

promaster campervan kitchen conversion

 

A couple of holes later the countertop was ready to be mounted along with the sink and cooktop.

The permanent RV stainless-steel cooktop runs off propane but we didn’t want to keep a large propane tank inside the van for safety and space reasons. Instead, we chose to use the common 1 LB Coleman green propane containers which usually last over a week of cooking breakfast and dinner every day. When empty, we refill them from an 11 LB tank that we keep in a Pelican Case on the outside of the van.

The sink came from Ikea and is the perfect size for a van conversion. Under the sink, we found a couple of adapters to connect simple ¾” clear tubing and drain it out to the outside. We found an existing drain hole at the edge of the floor and just enlarged it to fit the tubing.

 

sink installation promaster campervan conversion

 

We found this simple, cheap faucet on Amazon that only had one water line coming in instead of the usual hot-cold combo. To make sure we don’t waste too much water, we changed out the standard 1.5 gallon-per-minute aerator on the tip to this adjustable aerator with a switchable flow rate between 0.5 gpm and 1.5 gpm.

 

campervan conversion water tanks

 

To store enough water for 1-2 weeks we decided to get two 7 gallon containers for water storage. We needed one container to store filtered drinking water and one container for sink water, a must while traveling through Central and South America unless we simply used filtered water for everything.

 

campervan conversion best water pump

 

To supply the running water on demand, we installed this 2.3 gpm 12v water pump in the back just above the water tanks. We tested just about every water pump under $100 from Amazon and this was by far the quietest pump, barely noticeable when on.

We used a stainless steel braided hose to connect the water pump to the faucet because they can withstand high pressure, are safe for drinking water, and have a threaded connection on each end instead of using barbed fittings that can easily leak.

 

best promaster van conversion kitchen setup

 

We already had the perfect built-in fridge and freezer that we used on our previous Honda Element SUV conversion. We added an inch of insulation all around it to make it more efficient and have it turn on less frequently and drilled 2” holes into the side cabinets to allow fresh air to flow behind the fridge.

 

campervan conversion kitchen accessories

 

We had some leftover countertop that we used to create the backing plate for our magnetic spice rack next to the fridge.

 

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One of the hardest things about life on the road is resisting the temptation to eat out instead of cooking whenever possible, saving money and creating healthier meals. Having this permanent kitchen that includes all our requirements makes it easy to stick to the plan.

 

5. Finishing Touches

After creating all the cabinets and interior, we wanted to make a few additional modifications during our van conversion process that would increase our comfort and add décor to the van.

 

swivel seat ram promaster conversion

 

We added a swivel base to the passenger car’s seat which is great for hanging out at night. We didn’t know how much we would use it before installing but it turned out to be one of the best additions to the van and one that we use daily.

 

installing curtains and accessories campervan conversion

 

We also wanted to add some privacy curtains inspired by the campervan rental we had on our previous trip through Iceland. We bought a large orange curtain from Ikea that we cut into smaller individual curtains for the windows and we attached them in place with photo hanging wire.

 

promaster camper van conversion accessories curtains

 

We put in permanent curtains in the side and back windows, and also created removable curtains for the front passenger and driver windows that are held in place by magnets.  The front passenger and drivers windows are already tinted so we use these removable curtains only at night.

 

promaster campervan pelican case

 

In the outside rear of the van, we added a Pelican 1640 case that we use to store extra fuel, our super handy foldable grill that we use to cook outside any chance we get, and the 11 LB propane tank. We drilled some holes through the rear door to attach the case and added a couple of aluminum backing plates behind the door so that it can support all the weight.

 

custom roof rack diy campervan conversion

 

On the roof, we built a custom roof rack out of 80/20 aluminum bars and wooden slats.

 

ram promaster campervan conversion kit

 

The rack is great because it creates the perfect spot to hang out at night or watch the sunset, and it hides the solar panel and ceiling fan when trying to stealth camp.

 

aluminum ladder campervan conversion

 

To access the roof rack we added this universal aluminum van ladder to the other rear door.

 

offroading tires promaster conversion

 

Before heading out on our South America trip we decided to upgrade the tires to better all-terrain tires. The roads in Central and South America are known for being pretty rough and muddy, and many people warned us about the constant flat tires from potholes and nails.

We put in a set of Cooper STT Pro tires that are very aggressive and have reinforced sidewalls. These should be able to get us to more places without getting stuck and should keep us from getting flat tires constantly.

 

6. Van Conversion Cost

Since we left our full-time jobs to travel our conversion budget was pretty tiny. It was very important to us to keep the costs as low as possible while picking out the most durable materials that would last at least a few years on our road trip from the US to Argentina.

 

best diy promaster campervan conversion guide

 

We spent a total of $2900 on our DIY campervan conversion. The highest costs for our Promaster built were $400 for the fridge, $220 for window tint and $200 for a passenger swivel seat. We spent around $500 on materials from Home Depot like wood, insulation, nails etc.

After spending 4 months on the road everything is still working exactly as planned and we couldn’t be happier with how our van turned out.

 

amazing diy promaster campervan conversion guide

 

We hope that by showing you how we did our Promaster campervan conversion we can inspire you to join the awesome van life and travel in a campervan.

One of the best parts of van life is the amazingly supportive community behind it. If you have any questions on how we converted our Ram Promaster van into a camper van, don’t hesitate to ask us in the comments below!

 

Ready to dive into van life? Check out these 50 useful van life tips to make living on the road easier!

 

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read the disclosure for more info.

 

Related Articles:

DIY Promaster Campervan Conversion Guide – Part I

How To Convert Your SUV Into A Camper

 

155 thoughts on “DIY Promaster Camper Conversion Guide – Part II”

  1. This is freaking amazing! So impressive, I wish someday I’d be abel to own something even remotely as nicely done as this. You should be so proud.

    1. Hey Shawn!

      Thanks for your support! We are so glad that you like the van built. It takes some time and LOTS of research, but anything is possible. Hope you’re able to join vanlife sometime down the road ; )

      Cheers,
      Laura & Joel

      1. This is so amazing and inspiring! We spent 4 months in Argentina, Chile last spring with our 2 girls and loved it! Life changing. Great tips, just need to get my wife
        “on board” 😜

  2. Love the van build! We also have a promaster and just starting to create a home on wheels. Looking at the “hook over” ladder…did you paint it black or actually order in black? I can’t seem to find one, only the polished aluminum. Thanks!

    1. Hi Holly!

      We just spray painted the polished aluminum ladder black. After months of use, it’s still looking great except for the top of the steps where the aluminum is starting to shine through.

      To make sure it lasts, rough it up a bit first with sand paper or a scotch brite pad then clean it well with soap and water. Once dry, attach a couple of coats of primer, then 4-5 coats of paint in light coats. We did this all in a few hours and it hasn’t nicked or scratched at all.

  3. Just bought my Promaster, it is the 136″, low-roof version like yours, and your build is impressive and inspirational! I didn’t want a bigger van to keep costs down, and this size is perfect for solo travel on the weekends or over long distance.
    I’m just getting my electrical and bedding options sorted out, but going very minimal to begin with. I’ll wait on insulation, flooring, and proper kitchen building for the fall.
    Thank you for the inspiration, and hope your travels have gone as you hoped!
    Matt

    1. Thanks Matt!

      After 6 months on the road, the van has been great. The size is perfect because it fits just about anywhere but still has tons of room inside. One thing we did that wasn’t mentioned was to remove the smallest leaf spring in the rear to level out the van since they come so stiff and high in the rear from the factory. Since you’re going to be minimal and probably pretty light, this might be something you’re interested in.

    2. Beautiful build! I’m just curious on how you guys secure things like the bed-frame, for example, to the floor/walls. Do you screw into the metal walls of the van or? Thanks!

      1. Hi Justin,

        We attached the bed frame to the pillars around the rear door with bolts and also to the wheel wells with bolts that go through the sheet metal. On the front of the bed frame we used brackets and screws drilled through the floors. For the kitchen cabinets, we also drilled screws into the wall, floors, and the bed frame to secure it.

  4. Oh I am so doing this. I am a solo female and have had the desire but struggling with my ability to actually do this. Your descriptions are just what I needed. Thank you for sharing!!

    1. Awesome! We’ve met a ton of people along our journey who said they had no clue how to make stuff or operate tools but they’re all skills you pick up quickly once you start doing it. The hardest part is just getting yourself to start.

    1. We went to our local textile store and found some plain, light-colored thick cloth to cover the panels in. We used spray adhesive on the foam then placed the foam firmly on the cloth while it was laid out. It was super simple and looks great so I would definitely recommend it. Just make sure not to spray the adhesive on the cloth because it will soak through to the other side.

      If I could do it all over again, I would probably do this on the ceiling panels as well and save us a ton of time.

      Good luck!

  5. This is truly incredible! I was wondering whether you can speak more about the roof? Specifically, the 80/20 aluminum bars – where you purchased them from, your dimensions, how they were attached to the van and the like. Thanks!

    1. Hey Michael,

      Thanks for the kind words

      The roof rack was pretty simple to make. We bought 4 80/20 bars of 20cm x 40cm, each 10 feet in length. Two of those bars run along the sides of the van in full length, and two of the bars were cut in half to make 4 five-foot bars that run across the van. The five foot bars that run across match the width of the Promaster’s mounting studs perfectly. Then we used simple corner bracket plates on each of the four corners, top and bottom, and 8 t-bracket plates to secure the the two middle bars.

      We bought all of the 80/20 tubing and hardware at McMaster which isn’t the cheapest option but they have everything you need for this project.

      There was another comment earlier where I talked about the specifics of the mounting plates so make sure to check it out, but it’s basically just aluminum tubing with a flange that holds the rack to the van.

  6. Guys, I spend hours and hours every week at work obsessing on these Promaster/Sprinter conversion videos and sites. No kidding…yours is by far the best laid out and most educational of all of the thousands (slight exaggeration). Your space design is really elegant. Love to the lightness and brightens within the small interior. Also, kudos for the Amazon links to certain key materials. I’m 6’1” and worried that the bed design may not work, but, otherwise, if I were to pull the trigger on one, your design would STRONGLY dictate my approach. Happy and safe travels! Thanks again for a great tutorial!

    1. Thanks for the super awesome comment! Glad you enjoyed the tutorial and found it helpful : ) We tried to focus on very simple colors and materials in our built and it has definitely helped to open up the interior space and make it look bigger.

      The bed itself is 6’2″ across so it might work for you as well. I’m 5’8″ and the van feels very spacious for hanging out and sleeping.

      Take care,
      Laura

  7. Hello, great work. I like the idea of just using 1/8″ plywood for the ceiling slats. How did you mount the 80/20 beams to the roof? What brackets did you use?

    1. We made our own brackets using aluminum square tubing with holes on the bottom so they fit over the factory mounting studs. We then used a smaller aluminum tube inside the larger square tube that pulls on the mounting stud when you bolt both square tubes together.

      Hope that helps!

      1. Hi. i made my own brackets out of aluminum 2 inch square both sides. long 4 inches. drill in the middle and cut one side the long way.

  8. Just starting to plan for a conversion. I will soundproof with FatMat. Can I insulate with ¾”-1” polyiso or XPS foam boardover it using 3M High Strength 90 adhesive. Will this stick to the FatMat or will it pull the FatMat off?

    1. I used Fatmat on a a classic car I restored years ago and it definitely helped with the sound. It also sticks to the metal like glue and is really hard to pull off once it kind of melts together with the heat so you’ll be fine putting insulation over it without fear of the Fatmat falling off. However, I’m not sure the spray adhesive will work in holding the insulation onto the walls because the walls are all slightly curved and the polyiso insulation doesn’t bend much. We used metallic duct tape to hold it all around the edges and Loctite PL-300 foamboard adhesive or something similar to hold it in the middle.

  9. Hey guys, incredible write up! I came across your Honda Element post back in the winter, when I was looking to convert my Element into a micro camper. I got some great tips out of it (the PVC solar shower was a game changer!) and took it on several great kayaking trips this summer throughout CO, WV, NC, PA, and GA. The Element is fairly tight on space as you know and I found myself looking at Promasters to take it to the next stage. I was delighted to see that you guys made the same progression! Two questions for you: How does the Promaster compare to the Element handling wise? Do you miss the all wheel drive and great handling of the E, or is the Promaster equally enjoyable to drive? Secondly, I’m 6’1 tall. Naturally there are huge space saving benefits to putting the bed sideways as you did, but do you think I can fit? I sleep stretched all the way out a lot, so my guess is its going to be tight. Thanks so much and please keep posting!

    1. Hey Jason, funny we have the same way of thinking. We loved our Element – it was unstoppable in the snow, we had plenty of room for short trips, and it did handle great, but it was just too small for longer trips. In comparison, the Promaster is HUGE so long term travel is so much more comfortable and easier. Being FWD and low to the ground, it handles pretty well for a van of its size and when paired with a good set of tires is also pretty capable, albeit much less so than the Element in soft snow and sand. It also has plenty of power to go up hills, something the Element was not very good at when loaded with our gear. Quick tip: from the factory, the rear of the Promaster is really stiff but if you’re not planning on loading it to the max, you can simply remove the small leaf spring in the rear and that not only makes the suspension much softer but also levels out the van for sleeping.

      As for sleeping across the van, if you don’t add insulation to the side panels in the rear you can get somewhere around 78 inches in width. If you have a queen or king sized bed at home which measure 80″ in length, just place something about 2 inches from the edge at your feet and see if you’d be comfortable sleeping in that. It will probably be tight but certainly doable.

      Good luck!

  10. So a couple of questions…

    What size Promaster van is this? Looks to be the 159 inch wheelbase?
    I don’t understand how the walls were finished, there’s a passing mention of some cloth material? Looks far more smooth and wood like then that (in the pics)?
    Lastly…how wide is the bed? Is it a double or a real queen size?

    1. We have the 136″ version, which is a great size because it still allows you to park in normal parking spots.

      The walls are finished in 1/2″ polyiso foam insulation board. We attached cloth to one side of the foam with spray adhesive, then glued the foam to the walls with a strong adhesive. The finished walls look really smooth and have a nice texture when seen up close, and the van stays cooler because it’s all insulation.

      The bed is a full-size bed (I think the same as a double), so 74″ x 54″

  11. What swivel seat or bracket did you get? I am about to start a build on a Promaster.
    Thanks!
    Awesome van btw – thanks for all the links!

    1. Thanks! We used a swivel seat bracket that I found on Craigslist that had already been altered to fit the Promaster. Depending on where you live, you can often find used Sprinter swivel seat brackets that fit the Promaster after drilling a couple of extra holes

  12. This is a superb van build out and wonderfully detailed instructional site. Well done! I am bearing down on making a “fantasy” decision on a Pro master just like yours. I do wish you would have addressed the other aspects of van camping — potties and showers. Would love to hear your creative solutions to those items in your design.

    1. You can check out this article we wrote recently about van life tips, especially tips #23-27.

      For showers, when we’re on the road we’ll use a solar shower that we hang on a hook on the back of the roof rack. If we need privacy while showering, we open the rear doors and hang a shower curtain between the two doors, and the shower curtain is attached with velcro to the edge of the doors. Otherwise, we’ll use any shower we find at campgrounds, beaches, gyms, etc.

      The bathroom has never been an issue since there’s always bathrooms around everywhere. There are some people that carry folding or compost toilets but they’re more of a hassle. Instead, you can carry around doggy bags for night emergencies if you’re in an urban area.

    1. Thanks! We’re currently putting it through a two-year test drive down South America but maybe when we get back we’ll sell it to start working on version 2.0

  13. How was it doing the electrical? It freaks me out. I have a Sprinter that I have started…windows, vents and bunks for kids. Now we need to insulate, electrical and wiring….and of course walls and floors. Also, how is the sound…I have thought of putting sound proofing in van around wheel wells.

    1. Wiring is actually really simple. One negative(ground) wire from each accessory gets connected to a bolt on the van’s body, and one wire goes to a fuse box. The fuse box gets connected to the battery’s positive, and the battery’s negative is connected to another ground bolt on the van’s body. If you’ve already cut holes in the van to put in windows and vents then you’ve already done the hardest part.

      Once you finish putting everything in, all the extra stuff inside the van will absorb most of the noise so it’s actually pretty quiet. And as long as you pick tires that are relatively quiet (unlike the ones we unfortunately chose) then you’ll hear minimal road noise so I wouldn’t worry about adding additional sound proofing

  14. Hi Joel & Laura, we just got a Promaster, higher & longer but almost the same otherwise. We’re just gathering information & pieces for our build at this point. Your blog is really helpful, great ideas with beautiful results. I have a few questions…what kind of fridge did you get & where from? Is it DC? What is the tool you are using in the first pic where you’re cutting out the hole for the window? (Seems like I read something about a tool that runs on compressed air but now I can’t find that). Also, did you put strips of insulation between the ceiling ridges like you did on the floor or leave air gaps? Thanks so much, Sherry

    1. You can click on the fridge link in the kitchen section and it takes you to the Amazon listing where you can get it. It runs off 12V DC so it’s perfect for any conversion.

      In the picture I’m using an air punch but it didn’t work as well as I had hoped and would just use an electric jigsaw next time, which I used for the roof fan and it worked great.

      The roof has an air gap between the ridges and the insulation, no strips.

  15. Great site and very cool build for not a lot of money. What’s the noise factor like when driving? Do you notice a lot or rattles and squeaks?

    1. The tires are by far the loudest part of the van so be careful when choosing those. Also, the sliding door has some squeaks that can be partly eliminated by adjusting it but I can’t seem to completely get rid of them. The build itself has actually been really solid and doesn’t make any noise, probably since most of the build is screwed pretty tightly into the sheetmetal.

  16. My husband and I really want to convert a sprinter my father in law owns into a campervan. I’ve checked hundreds of options and yours was the most detailed and complete so thanks for that…!
    We live in Argentina (Buenos Aires). If you are still in the area, let us know! We’d love to see your campervan! 😀

    1. Thanks! We’re currently in Ecuador and not sure when we’ll be in Buenos Aires but we’ll definitely be going there at some point. We’ll make sure to let you know!

  17. I love the beauty and simplicity of your design! The roof rack was a great touch, and so unique. How much did just the van cost, before the conversion happened?

  18. Your “Can Do” attitude comes across in the simplicity of your description and the beauty of your build. I hope you write about your trip with photos. I loved reading this. I am waiting to recover from some health issues so I can start my van.
    Peggy

  19. Hello, I’m currently looking to do a low cost conversion as well. I was wondering if you had a amazon list or a list of everything you used and prices? I’m looking for great but affordable stuff and I loved the way you set everything out

    1. We don’t have one single list, but throughout both parts of the build article we placed links to the Amazon or Home Depot product pages of everything we used in our conversion. We didn’t put links to things like wood or screws since those can easily be found at Home Depot, but just about everything else we used has a link. If there’s anything you can’t find just let us know and we’ll give you a link to it!

  20. Hi there,

    Your guys’ van is amazing. Well done. I am currently working on my own Promaster Conversion and I have one question for you guys, how did you make the trim piece which surrounds the rear door dome light. I am currently working on that piece and having a hell of a time. Please let me know. Thank you so much.

    Best,
    Andrew

    1. Thanks Andrew! For that piece we used 3/8″ plywood and cut it to shape with a jig saw. I also cut a couple of slits going up-down along each side on the back of the wood so that it can bend with the curves on the sheetmetal. I then wet the wood around those slits and placed something heavy on it overnight so that it would bend into shape without splitting.

      1. Hi Joel,

        Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. I just want to confirm I am understanding this correctly. So you cut the 3/8″ ply to fit around the dome light and then cut slits where the sheet metal starts to round in the corners? And then did you use self tapping sheet metal screws to fasten to the sheet metal where the dome light is fastenend too? Thank you again very much for the help. Best of luck.

        -Andrew
        P.S. there will most likely be follow up questions regarding your plumbing set up lol. Thanks again.

        1. That’s exactly right. I left out one thing earlier though…since the center section around the dome light is about 1/4″ higher than the rest of the sheetmetal, I placed a few small strips of wood about 1/4″ thick between the wood and the rest of the sheetmetal so that it would sit flat on the entire panel and I could screw it in more easily. I’ll email you some pics shortly.

  21. I’ve been poring over this rebuild for the past 2 days…have been thinking about the van life for a few years now, and y’all make it look so easy. But I think I could do it! Thanks for posting all the steps and products and details – SUPER helpful for ideas and things to look for. I love everything about this build!

    1. Thank you so much, Molly! We tried to keep the van built very simple and minimal which helped a lot to get it done quicker. Once you get going, it’s not that tough. Just focus on one thing at a time and it will be complete before you know it : )

      Cheers,
      Laura

  22. Nice work. Can you show or go into more detail on how you attached the aluminum bars to the top of the van for the deck? What hardware will I need to do something similar? Thanks-

    1. Hey Jonathan,

      This was one of the trickiest part of the entire van built. We used aluminum square tubing with a flange from McMaster to attach the deck to and dropped it over the van’s studs. Then we used a smaller square tubing that has a slit down the bottom and used that as a fork to slide inside the bigger tube under the head of the stud. We put a screw through the top of the bigger outer tube into the smaller tube to hold them both together and to put pressure on the head of the stud. Hope this helps a bit!

      Laura

      1. Thanks Laura! Sourcing the rails from McMaster is a good start. Im a little lost on how they attach to the vans studs. The smaller square tubing, where did you get that and/or is there a photo? I’m not grasping the slit down the middle or using it as a fork. Thank you SO much!

        1. Hey Jonathan,

          I apologize for the confusion- this part is always super hard for us to explain since it all holds together like a puzzle piece.

          I believe we got the inner aluminum tube from McMaster as well. I’ll email you some closeup shots since it’s not letting me attach them in this comment thread.

          Laura

          1. Hi Laura,

            I too am interested in how you built the deck and would like to do the same to my promaster. Could you also send me the close up photos? Thank you so much!

          2. Hey Bryce,

            From the feedback that we got even the closeup pictures were not too helpful. We’ll be working on creating another roof rack in the next few weeks so this time we’ll do a better job on documenting the steps and show the process in a video. Hopefully, we’ll have that up soon!

            Laura

          3. We’ve been following this roof rack thread and will order from McMaster shortly. We are carefully looking over the inventory of fasteners to try to fabricate your roof rack. Any photos, however unclear would be appreciated. A new step by step would be awesome. Thanks for all your work documenting the build.

          4. Hi Debbie, we’re currently working on putting out more details about the roof rack, stay tuned!

  23. Mark Burlingame

    Awesome job, gave me some great set up ideas and thank for adding links to the products used for ease of finding. Loving it!!

  24. I really love everything about your conversion great job! The van looks amazing and shows the hard work put into it. Thank you also for such an in depth build guide best I’ve seen.

  25. That’s a nice set up. my daughter and i are looking at some vans like this now so we can go anytime we want to go. you guys did a great job and thanks for the step by step details. what year and model Promaster do you have. is it the Ram2500 159″ high van and is it 4×4.

    1. Thanks, Shane!

      We have the 2017 Promaster 1500 standard roof 136″. They don’t make these in 4×4…yet. But it’s plenty capable to handle just about anything. So far we have survived all of Central and South America including rugged roads in Guatemala and narrow muddy mountain passes in Peru.

      Laura

      1. thanks for replying. ive been wanting to this for a while. been looking at the Mercedes sprinter but after reading up on them a lot of people have had lots of issues w with them. you guys Promaster is the first one i have seen converted and i love it. thanks again for all the info. are you guys on instagram or facebook

  26. You guys did an amazing job! Very well thought out, the insight in how you actually planned and designed the built has given me a lot of inspiration for my own planned conversion. Thanks heaps!

  27. Great info. We’ve searched McMaster site and haven’t found the assessory to connect the rails to the studs on the van. Any chance you might have a parts number or photo?

    1. Sorry, the pieces that actually hold the rails to the van’s roof rack studs were hand made by me. It’s just a few pieces of square tubing that put pressure against the studs. I’ll have to outline how to do this part soon!

  28. Laura and Joel this is amazing!! My wife and I are already planning how and when we’re going to do this. I am too excited for words right now!!

    We’ve heard about people that do it but when you lay out the costs and how you did it like this it makes it very real.

    Thanks guys,

    From your two new followers

    Mike and Sarah

  29. This is incredibly helpful! you see so many builds that cost ~$20k, it is nice to see a beautiful conversion for a fraction of that price. One question, what did you use to cover the insulation on the walls? Did you wrap it in cloth like around the window or use plywood sheets or something else?

    1. The walls are covered in 1/2″ polyiso insulation foam which are wrapped in cloth. We just cut the foam to the shape of the wall panels, sprayed adhesive on one side, and placed cloth over them, just like we did on the panels around the windows.

  30. Hey! Thanks so much for the write up! Super detailed and loved the photos of it out on the road 🙂 I have two questions for ya though! 1.) Do you have any regrets or wish you had bought the “high roof” version? and 2.) With those tires, throughout your journey did you ever get stuck in sand or mud?

    Thanks!

    1. The standard roof version was perfect for us since we were traveling in places where there’s a lot of things hanging really low (branches, electric cables, parking structures, etc). We also got a great deal on it and saved around $12k over what a tall roof would have cost us so no regrets. If you find a good deal on a standard roof, go for it, but if you’re buying new and a tall roof is about the same cost, get the tall version since it has better resale value, more storage options, and more headroom. As for the tires, I have mixed feelings. They are amazing tires that never lost traction in the most extreme terrain and never got flats even when I hit giant obstacles at full speed. On the other hand, they were so loud my ears would hurt after a long day of driving on paved roads. We got stuck once in deep mud and had to be pulled out but the mud was so thick nothing other than giant tires on a 4×4 would have helped. Next time, I’ll stick to a normal all-terrain tire.

  31. Lonnie shepard

    HI
    You’re van is AWSOME can you tell me what height you put your bed platform at I’m trying to figure out if I’ll have enough head room by the time I consider the floor ,ceiling and mattress I’m only 5’9 tall and just need enough room so I can sit up in the bed without hitting my head on the ceiling
    Thank you

    1. Thanks! We don’t have the van with us right now so I can’t measure it at the moment. We placed the bed right at the level of the rear door handle, just below it so that the door handle still opens from the inside. This put our whole bed platform lower than the crossbeams on the side so it was a little bit trickier to stabilize it, but it gave us plenty of room to sit up when we’re in bed and we still have plenty of storage room under the bed. Hope that helps

    1. Hey Jason,

      We used aluminum square tubing to make some brackets that attach to the roof mount studs on the van. We’ll be working on a more detailed guide in the upcoming weeks.

      Laura

  32. I just bought a 2001 Ford Shuttle Bus, I’m excited and terrified! I came across your van conversion and am very grateful, so much help. Thank-you, I’m sure I’ll have many questions thru my build!!!

    1. Wow, that’s a big project. In some ways doing a bigger build can be easier since you don’t have to plan out the use of the space down to the last inch, but it is a lot more work because of the added space. Good luck and let us know if we can help answer any specific questions!

  33. So informative & inspiring, thank you! Now, if you were to do another one now, what would you change or add that you didn’t do the first time around? Would you get a high roof, longer cab, change the layout, etc?

    1. Our layout worked pretty well for us. Many times we wished we had setup some form of work station like a bench and pull-out table by the sliding door. Also, we tried to place the ceiling fan towards the back to get airflow through the van but the person sleeping all the way in the back still didn’t get any air flow, so adding some kind of opening in the back would have been nice. But the van size and overall layout was great and we wouldn’t change it if we could do it over.

  34. Love your van! I have a 2018 Promaster 136″ and am almost finished with my conversion. It’s been a huge learning process! I’ve done it all by myself, starting with no construction skills at all; when I got started I actually had to look on YouTube to find out how to countersink a screw 😉 I’m especially interested in learning more about your roof rack (seems like lots of people are as enamored of it as I am!)

    1. I actually had to look up “how to countersink a screw” on YouTube just now. Interesting. I’ve always just screwed the screws down tight until they became flush. Just goes to show you really don’t need to know a lot about carpentry, electricity, or be all that handy to create your own camper van, you just have to be willing to learn and give it a try. As for the rack, more info is coming on that soon!

  35. The thing no one ever talks about are the “edges” and corners of the ceiling and walls in any detail.
    great build and blog however.

    1. I totally agree! It’s funny because whenever I check out a van build in person or online, that is the first thing I look at because it was the part I struggled with the most and I would argue is the hardest part of the van build. The Promaster has more random edges, corners, and odd shapes than other vans that are really hard to cover smoothly and give it a professional, finished look. If I were to do it again, I would cover up more of the van’s panels and corners in plywood at the expense of losing a little room, but after seeing many van builds I think that it’s the only way to make it look complete.

  36. RV Roof Sealant

    I really love everything about your conversion great job! The van looks amazing and shows the hard work put into it. Thank you also for such an in depth build guide, best I’ve seen.

  37. As a ridiculously-excessive-van-life-info consumer, this is definitely one of the best, most practical guides I’ve seen 🙂 Thank you!

  38. This is incredible! I am so obsessed with both of your guides. I have not been able to find something this comprehensive and helpful, anywhere! Thank you for sharing. My partner and I are just beginning this journey and we could not be happier that we stumbled upon your conversion.

  39. Hi there! Would you be able to go into a little detail on how to attach the cabinet section to the van? Can’t quite seem to find any good tutorial videos on that. Thanks!

    1. We just put a few screws into the sheet metal of the van on the top-rear part of the cabinet, and used a few corner brackets to secure the cabinet to the floor with screws. We pre-drilled the holes with a small drill bit, then used sheet metal screws to go right through the floors and walls of the van. Held up great, super solid with no movement or noise of any kind.

  40. Very impressive! Your creativity, handy skills and well thought out plans have created a beautiful, highly functional camper that should serve your wanderlust for years and be the envy of many. Kudos!

  41. Thank you both for sharing all of this. Not just the articles, but your responses too. I’ve been off and on considering a campervan solution for my family of 4 for the past 6 months, but I’m all in now. I couldn’t bring myself to spend 20k+ on ’02/’03 Eurovan with 100k+ miles, and I also don’t have the budget to pay someone to convert a new van to my requirements. After reading your articles, I am now looking for a used 159″ Promaster with the low roof, which I plan to send to Sportsmobile to install a pop-top, but then build out the inside myself. So again, thank you for showing me what is possible!

    Also, I like your layout. With the 159″, I plan to add two swivel captain’s chairs for my kids. If you had the 159″ version anything else you’d add to the interior?

    1. The 159″ Promaster is about 2 feet longer than the 136″, so adding those two chairs will take up all that additional room plus a little more. I think if add swivel bases to the two front seats and add a removable table in between them all, you should have the one thing we wish we had which is a sitting area to eat and work more comfortably. As for finding your perfect van, unfortunately I don’t think they make a 159″ standard roof, just a 159″ high roof. If you’re set on a lower roof, you can get a Ford Transit in that long & low combo.

      1. Thanks Joel. You are right, the 159 Promaster only comes with the high roof. I’m checking with Sportsmobile if they would still convert that version to a pop-top. I’ll start looking at the transit too. As for layout, that’s exactly why I want the extended body…I’d have swivels on all four seats and that would be our little dining room/inside living room! I think that would get my family super motivated for winter/wet/colder weather camping trips than what we’re currently into. Thanks again and I’ll keep you updated. Have a great trip!

    1. Haha her bathroom area was definitely on top of our priorities in the built and made things a bit trickier but had to be done. Between gas stations and grocery stores, thankfully we’ve never had an issue finding a bathroom on the road : )

      Cheers,
      Laura

  42. The roof deck is stellar. I can think of 100 uses for getting “above it all”.
    Do you use it often? Or do you talk yourselves out of schlepping the picnic and the cushions up the ladder?

    1. We use it often to take pictures from a higher perspective, to launch the drone, and to clean the solar panels. To just chill… unfortunately, not as much as we had hoped.

  43. Thank you so much, this has probably shaved years off my goal of converting a van of my own!

    Question..
    I’m deciding now between high top vs low top. With the ceiling and floor that you guys put in, what is your standing clearance? I’m pretty short 🙂

    Also, for length, do you think if you had the 159 you would run into parking issues in US city life?

    1. We have about 64″ height inside the van since we chose pretty thin materials. If you’re within a few inches of that, you should be fine. As for the length, I really like the 136″ version and while at times I wish we had the longer version to have a bathroom or shower, I think it would be pretty hard to maneuver in most places. The 136″ on the other hand isn’t much longer than a normal car and can fit just about anywhere.

  44. That is an awesome story….. Wishing you both the best. I’m just in the 👂 stages of planning a build…. Thank you for sharing.

  45. HI , very very well done… inspiring also. My question is about your tires , what are the spec of them, the size etc . And also did you had to lift and/or change the suspension system of the Promaster to fit the tires ?

    1. The tires are 215/85r16 so they’re a bit narrower than stock but much taller. While they were a bit too aggressive for the roads (ie. very, very loud), since we spent most of our time on dirt and mud “roads” of Central and South America, they ended up being nearly perfect for our use. Our van is stock in the front and lowered in the rear by removing the smallest leaf spring to level it out. The tires were rubbing on the very bottom of the rear wheel well plastic trim so I had to trim the plastic a little on the inside. When I replace the tires, I will absolutely get the same size tires and am convinced that it’s the best tire size for this van.

  46. This a so helpful Thanm you for thinking of us.
    I have rough a vw crafter lwb and am on week three in converting it.
    Ur ideas have really given me great ideas and I’m gonna copy proberly all of ur ideas and add them to the van.

    1. I don’t recall the exact dimensions but it’s about 60″ wide and 18″ deep. The braided hose goes from the faucet to the water pump, then from the water pump to the tank it’s just a 2 ft piece of clear tubing from Home Depot.

        1. Yea, I took the spout out of one of the containers, put that side facing up, and stuck the hose in through there. I made sure the hose was long enough to reach the bottom so it wasn’t sucking up air. I also went to Home Depot and got a small PVC pipe reducer so the hole in the container was exactly the same diameter as the hose to prevent spills when traveling over bad terrain. This setup worked great for us.

  47. Love your set up, I used some of your tires on my Transit 350 and was able to keep my cost at $1500 by converting cabinets and dresser from Habitat Restore. My latgest expences was the diesel heater.

  48. Hi, I’m totally new to this, I’m trying to do a conversion on my 2002 Dodge Ram van..I’m really confused on the wiring..do you have a chart showing what size cable goes to what.im starting out with isolator and one deep cycle age battery..what size is the red and black cable for this..isolator to auxiliary battery…and size for water pump and tiny lights like yours..ordered the same isolator, water pump etc. as your set up..thanks

    1. The wiring depends on the amount of watts or amps that the specific component will draw. For everything related to the isolator and battery grounds, run 4-6 gauge wires (pick one) since it could be handling up to 30 amps at full load. For water pump, fan, power outlets, and fridge, run 10-12 gauge since these take 3-10 amps at full load. For lights and other small things, run 16-20 gauge since they take under 2 amps at full load.

  49. Hi! We have the same van! Wondering what your kitchen dimensions are! Thanks!! Can’t wait for ours to be done! 😍

    1. I believe the cabinets are 60″ wide and 20″ deep. I don’t remember the height but it’s the standard kitchen cabinet height of around 36″. The counter is a couple of inches deeper so about 22″ deep.

  50. Hello..
    Love the conversion
    I see in a picture slats for the bed top…in another looks like a single plywood for a top?

    1. Yea, we mostly did slats but we also put in a few doors to access what’s under the bed. In one corner we put in a door to access the hamper underneath to throw in our dirty clothes, and on one side we put in a door to access the cat’s area in case we quickly needed to get our cat out.

      1. Hi
        Thanks for the response so in the picture with the solid plywood top was that just a temporary piece of plywood?

        1. Yea, during the build we were trying to figure out what to use, we must have snapped a picture during that time. The picture with the slats is what we ended up going with. The only reason we didn’t use plywood throughout is we read that using solid plywood can develop mold because of the lack of circulation

  51. Really love you van and your your descriptions/how-to’s!
    I would love more details on the roof rack – is that up somewhere?

    Thanks!

    1. Thanks Michele!

      We’ve been meaning to write up something on the roof rack. The roof rack was custom built by us and the process was a bit tricky so we’re trying to figure out a way to explain it without being too confusing. We will try to post a guide soon!

      Laura & Joel

    1. We secured it to the floor and the wall’s crossmember with metal screws. Probably did about 5 on the floor and 5 on the wall. Just make sure to use metal screws since the threads are different than wood screws.

  52. TANNER ANNICHIARICO

    Hello Laura and Joel,
    Is your solar panel supplying enough power to fully charge your batteries are could you use more panel for your capacity needs?
    Thanks.

    1. Our 145 watt panel was enough until we hit Central America where it was too hot and overcast for the panel to keep up with the fridge and multiple fans. We ended up adding another 200 watts and didn’t have any issues after that. I would say that for the most part 150-200 watts is enough unless you plan on heading somewhere where the energy demand is extremely high.

  53. i absolutely love your build!! i’m hoping to do a similar ceiling and was wondering what you used to cut the 1/8” plywood into 2” strips? i’m worried about the wood splitting since it’s so thin. thank you in advance for any advice and all that you’ve already shared!

    1. We used a table saw but it was such a long and tedious process. Also, the wood ended up being too thin and warped with the constant change in temperatures so now the roof is all wavy. I would go with a thicker wood instead

  54. Fantastic Job, hope all is still going well.
    Looking to build ours also on the Promaster.
    Hard question, your opinions on the seat comfort driving (especially several hours or more at a time) also hanging out.
    It can be a bit tricky question being everyone’s back, spine & buttox have differing opinions, some seats are horrid after an hour or so others you can go for hours and hours and all is good.
    Stay Safe & Thank You!
    Kevin

    1. It probably depends on the seats you have. We had the factory vinyl seats and I hate to say it but they are pretty uncomfortable. I test drove one that had the cloth seats and they were much better. I would at least add some kind of lumbar support if I were to do it again or just change out the seats for something more comfortable.

  55. Hey guys. Excellent build and I hope you’re having an amazing journey. I never really looked at a low roof van until this. I’m 6′ so have been looking at the mid/high roof line ups. My daughter, on the other hand, is 5’3″ and looking as well. Is there any way you can describe or show your daily routine moving around the van for both of you? Curious w/the roofline. I’ve had two VW Type 2.5 Westy’s and still to this day love the economical space. Your build is very beautiful, and for the price…AMAZING. Cheers from SOCAL.

    1. Hey Hugh,

      Thanks for your comment! I’m 5’8″ and my husband is 5’9″ so having the low roof was not a big issue for us. We did use very thin floor and ceiling materials during our build to save as much space as possible. Overall it was pretty comfortable for our needs. I’d say the only time I wish I could stand up all the way was while cooking our meals inside the van.

      Laura

  56. Hi, great job! A couple of questions as we begin…
    – Should we consider having both driver and passenger seats swivel, or only the passenger seat? Thinking that, because the sink & counter is probably pretty close to the backside of the driver’s seat? (If only the passenger seat makes sense, is it an easy task to DIY; the option when buying costs $595…)
    – The Promaster comes with a 180 amp alternator – would we need a higher one, like 220?
    – I’m for no rear windows; my gut is to have none (save for the windshield and driver/passenger windows), for reasons of security. During the day, if driving, we would not care. During the night while sleeping, we’d need none. During those times we are pulled over to relax, eat, etc., the sliding door is open, and also likely the rear doors would also be swung open for plenty of light. I have a sailboat and cannot even begin to think of cutting into the hull, so that is in my DNA I guess. The most I can get myself to consider is the cutting needed to install a fan of some sort. What do you think?
    – For the frig, would a group 27 AGM handle things? The only thing electrical we’d have wb that, the frig. Water will be gravity based.

    Thank you!

    1. -The driver seat swivel really depends on how you build your interior. The way we built it, there is no room for the driver to swing his legs so it would be pointless.
      -180 amp alternator is more than enough
      -You can try driving without windows at first and see how that works for you. Driving without a window on the sliding door is pretty difficult because it leaves a giant blind spot. If you find that you want a window after all, then install it later. If you’re shy about cutting into the van then take it in to an installer.
      -One group 27 battery is a stretch for a fridge. Your battery voltage would likely drop very low every night and your fridge and other electronics would not work properly and begin shutting off, not to mention doing permanent damage to the battery with each cycle. If you’re set on going with a single AGM, at least buy a Trojan Solar AGM battery which are rated for over 500 cycles at 100% discharge.

  57. What did you two end up doing for a table, or somewhere to eat? I looked through the comments and through the photos and didn’t see anything on this behalf?

    1. Most of the time we used foldable camping chairs and table to eat. Occasionally we would also sit on the bed, on the floor or use the passenger swivel seat.

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